Wintry storm takes aim at Midwest; snow, ice, freezing rain headed from Texas to Illinois

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Storms that roared through the Northwest and Rockies earlier in the week blew into the southern Plains and Midwest on Thursday, bringing the first significant ice and snow of the

Thursday, November 30th 2006, 8:05 am

By: News On 6

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Storms that roared through the Northwest and Rockies earlier in the week blew into the southern Plains and Midwest on Thursday, bringing the first significant ice and snow of the season.

The National Weather Service issued winter storm warnings from Texas to Illinois for Thursday and in some northern areas, through noon Friday. Up to 12 inches of snow was possible in some portions of eastern Kansas, while others could see ice accumulations of more than an inch.

The day began with sleet, snow and freezing rain in northern Texas that forced the cancellation of 200 departures from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and closed schools in some areas. The precipitation and freezing temperatures glazed roads in much of the Panhandle, South Plains and Red River Valley. As much as 7 inches of snow fell overnight in parts of the Texas Panhandle, and it snowed as far west as El Paso.

Forecasters issued a rare blizzard warning Thursday for portions of Oklahoma as heavy snow, strong winds and freezing rain left roads slick and dangerous. Most schools and all nonessential state offices closed.

``We're seeing quite a bit of thunder and lightning in southwest Oklahoma and that will enhance the snowfall,'' said meteorologist Rick Smith with the National Weather Service in Norman. ``There will be a pretty rapid accumulation of snow.''

Areas in the northern part of the state were expected to receive 8 to 12 inches. The snowfall was expected to continue into Thursday evening, Smith said, before moving out of Oklahoma and into Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas. Snow was falling in southern Kansas by late morning.

The National Weather Service forecast called for freezing rain and sleet to fall on southeast Kansas and southwest and central Missouri before changing over to snow Thursday afternoon and continue into the evening. With 35 mph wind gusts in the forecast, the weather service predicted extremely dangerous driving conditions, the weather service forecast said.

Residents of Illinois, which had steady rain and some sleet Thursday morning, were bracing for the storm to hit on Thursday night and Friday.

With 6 inches to perhaps a foot of snow possible Friday in some parts of Illinois, ``it looks like it's going to get messy,'' said Tim Halbach, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Romeoville. ``There could be times where some areas see 2 inches of snow per hour.''

Some central Illinois schools, including the nearly 12,000-student Unit 5 district in Normal, called off classes around noon Thursday to get students home before the weather turned worse, officials said.

The severe weather came in back-to-back storms, said Mike July of the National Weather Service in Kansas City.

``We're going to get hit with a double-whammy,'' he said.

The first storm rolled through Kansas on Wednesday afternoon, on the heels of near-record setting high temperatures earlier in the week. It dumped half an inch of ice on tree limbs and power lines in eastern Kansas, contributing to a fatal car accident on the Kansas Turnpike and raising concerns of power outages.

The second system was moving northeast from Oklahoma on Thursday afternoon on the was to Illinois.

Icy conditions were a factor in the death of a 24-year-old woman whose vehicle hit another vehicle in the first storm Wednesday in a construction zone on the turnpike just east of Topeka, Kan., the Kansas Highway Patrol said.

Snow fell in New Mexico on Wednesday, snarling roadways and causing some school districts to close Thursday. Taos reported 8 inches of snow from Wednesday, while Santa Fe had between 1 and 3 inches.

Storms were linked to the deaths of two 16-year-old Washington boys, whose bodies were found Tuesday in a garage east of Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula. They apparently died of carbon monoxide poisoning while trying to refuel a portable generator.

More snow and icy temperatures descended on Colorado as cold air moved in behind the storm, which dropped up to 2 feet of snow on the mountains. The plummeting mercury made for icy conditions on Colorado highways for the evening commute.

In Washington, the November precipitation total at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport stood at 15.45 inches at about 10 p.m. Wednesday, National Weather Service meteorologist Doug McDonnal said. That topped Seattle's monthly record of 15.33 inches set in December 1933.

With warmer temperatures expected to follow the storm as it marches east toward the Midwest, the Weather Service issued a flood watch for the combined effects of rain and melting snow in Whatcom County, just south of the Canadian border.

Washington schools were closed Thursday for a third straight day in Bellingham and elsewhere in Whatcom County. In many other areas school were reopening after snow holidays for hundreds of children. In Seattle and many other schools, classes were starting two hours late.

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