Saturday, October 31, 2009
Snow lets up in West, Plains; South gets drenched
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — While residents in some Western and Plains states were digging out Friday after an early blast of snow, heavy rain and strong winds that toppled trees, power lines and church steeples lashed parts of the South, leaving three people dead.
The rain was forecast to let up Friday, but the National Weather Service cautioned that the ground was so saturated that even a modest amount of additional rain could cause flash flooding from the western Gulf Coast to the mid-Mississippi Valley.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency after storms caused flooded roads, power outages and wind damage in the northwestern part of the state. A 20-year-old driver was killed Thursday when his car ran under a toppled tree near Shreveport, authorities said.
A man in North Little Rock, Ark., was found in a submerged vehicle and was pronounced dead at a hospital, Pulaski County Coroner Garland Camper said. Kenny Raines, 50, had driven into the high water Thursday night, police said.
In northeast Arkansas, the body of 38-year-old Eric Brashers of Batesville was found Friday morning after he was swept away from his truck by floodwaters, Independence County Sheriff Keith Bowers said.
Meanwhile, the snowstorm that walloped Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas earlier in the week tapered off, but some roads across the region remained treacherous.
A winter weather advisory remains in effect for parts of southeast Wyoming and western Nebraska. The weather service says gusts of 50 mph or more will reduce visibility to near zero.
Gusty winds and blowing snow kept most major highways in southeast Wyoming shut down. U.S. Highway 20 at the north end of the Nebraska Panhandle reopened into Wyoming. Stretches of Interstate 80 and U.S. Highway 30 reopened late Friday afternoon from Big Springs, Neb., north of Colorado’s northeast corner, west to the Wyoming state line.
Also Friday, transportation officials reopened a 35-mile span of Interstate 25 from Wellington in northern Colorado to Cheyenne. But U.S. 85 north of Cheyenne remained closed.
Highways in eastern Colorado and western Kansas, including Interstates 70 and 76, also reopened.
The storm, which began Tuesday, had spread 3 feet of snow and left much higher drifts across parts of northern Utah, Wyoming and Colorado.
About 15 inches fell in the Deadwood, S.D., area, causing officials to shut down Mount Rushmore National Memorial. It reopened Friday morning.
Winter weather advisories remained in effect Friday for southeast Wyoming and western Nebraska.
Meanwhile, flood warnings stretch from the western Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes, with flash flood warnings in effect for eastern Arkansas, western Tennesseee, western Kentucky and southeast Missouri.
Several tornadoes touched down in Louisiana and Arkansas on Thursday. A steeple blew off a church in Shreveport, La., hitting a car. The 57-year-old driver had to be pulled out by rescuers and suffered broken bones, authorities said.
Caddo Parish Sheriff’s spokeswoman Cindy Chadwick said a sheriff’s substation south of Shreveport flooded with about 8 inches of water Friday. Electrical equipment and personnel were moved to a nearby church. Chadwick said deputies used boats to rescue nearly 40 people from a subdivision with flooded roads and homes Thursday night and Friday. About 20 homes were reported flooded with as much as three feet of water.
Heavy rain across Arkansas stranded an unknown number of people in their homes, while strong winds damaged buildings and knocked over trees and utility lines.
In Harrison, Lori Hudson blamed a change in drainage patterns for an ankle-high flood in her home.
“I’ve got a river running through my house,” Hudson said.
In Hardy, in northeast Arkansas, a firefighter had to be rescued after climbing to the top of the fire truck he was driving when the Spring River’s waters came up faster than he anticipated overnight, Sharp County Office of Emergency Management Director Gene Moore said.
Hardy residents near the Spring River were evacuated overnight as the river rose to 15.9 feet Friday morning, Moore said.
In Pine Bluff, part of the roof of a Walmart store blew off during storms Thursday night. Among the damage at the First Assembly of God Church, the steeple was bent over by the strong winds.
“The steeple almost looked like a witch’s hat,” Pine Bluff police spokesman Lt. Bob Rawlinson said.