More than 20 states in the middle of the U.S. were socked with as much as two feet of snow on Thursday as government officials issued blizzard watches and warnings, and parts of the region all but ground to a halt.
Feet of snow and inches of ice conspired to cause numerous traffic accidents, including a school bus rollover in Arkansas that injured the driver and three children, the Associated Press reported. The storm was responsible for at least one death, when an 18-year-old driver in Oklahoma skidded and hit a truck, which killed him, the AP and other media outlets reported.
Snow fell all day February 21, and winter storm warnings were issued from eastern Colorado through Illinois, AP said. In southern Missouri, southern Illinois and Arkansas the frozen water took the form of freezing rain and sleet, while St. Louis was expecting all three: snow, sleet and freezing rain.
Dozens of tribes were potentially in the path of the storm in Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Kansas and Oklahoma.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Weather Service and other federal offices monitored the storm and maintained steady contact with state and tribal emergency personnel in the storm’s path, FEMA said in a media release. The agency deployed state liaisons in Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, and Kansas so as to take immediate action if warranted.
The storm was expected to continue across the central United States most of Thursday, with some parts of the Central Plains getting more than a foot, even as far south as the lower and middle Mississippi River Valley, FEMA’s statement said.
“Winter storm warnings and winter weather advisories are in effect for a large area of the Central and Southern Plains into the upper Midwest, while ice storm warnings are in effect for portions of Northern Arkansas, Southwestern Missouri and the Mississippi River Valley. In addition to winter weather across the Central and Southern Plains, severe storms are also possible across portions of the South this evening and overnight, with a risk of tornadoes and hail,” FEMA said.
Separate snowstorms elsewhere surprised drivers in California, stranding hundreds on highways in the mountain, AP reported, and closing 35 miles of Highway 58 between Mojave and Bakersfield. Northern Arizona and Colorado also had to close schools due to one of the heaviest storms in two years.
Winter storm warnings and advisories persisted for the central and southern Plains, into the upper Midwest and the Mississippi River Valley, the National Weather Service said, dumping snow, sleet and freezing rain. Thunderstorms were even possible from eastern Texas to Georgia as a result of the storm, with parts of northern Arkansas under ice storm warning.