The winter-weary Northeast and upper Midwest were digging out Saturday from another round of heavy snowfall while cleanup began in battered parts of the South and Midwest after a sprawling storm system produced ferocious winds that left widespread damage and caused multiple deaths.
More than a foot of snow fell in parts of New York state, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine before the late-winter storm started to slow. Driving conditions were hazardous, as dozens of cars, trucks, and tractor-trailers slid off roads, police said.
Hundreds of businesses were closed, many flights were canceled and some bus service was suspended. The wet snow was accompanied by winds gusting to 40 to 50 mph, raising concerns about toppled trees and power outages, said meteorologist Jon Palmer with the National Weather Service in Maine.
In far northern Maine, the storm completely missed the start of the 30th Can-Am Crown, which bills itself as the biggest dog sled race east of the Mississippi. There was already three to four feet of snow on the ground before mushers embarked Saturday to a cacophony of barking dogs in Fort Kent, along the Canadian border.
In the upper Midwest, residents dug out Saturday from snowfall that caused widespread power outages and forced Detroit’s Metropolitan Wayne County Airport to briefly close late Friday. Passengers were advised to check with airlines for flight delays on Saturday.
An Indiana state trooper was struck by a vehicle and killed Friday afternoon while assisting other troopers with traffic backups following weather-related crashes.
Master Trooper James R. Bailey, 50, was hit while deploying stop sticks on Interstate 69 near Auburn to stop a speeding vehicle fleeing Fort Wayne police, state police said. Bailey later died at a hospital. He had spent more than 15 years with the state police. A 42-year-old Marion, Indiana, man was arrested and faces a charge of resisting law enforcement causing death to a law enforcement officer.
In Michigan, an 80-year-old man was struck and killed Friday evening by a snowplow that was backing up while clearing snow from a driveway in Ann Arbor, MLive.com reported. The snowplow driver said he didn’t know he had struck the man until a bystander got his attention, police said.
Victoria Burnett felt a sense of foreboding as the snow began falling Friday in Farmington Hills, northwest of Detroit. Burnett lost power for seven days following the first of two ice storms that slammed Michigan last week. She was able to use a generator until her service returned.
“At the end of the ice storm—Sunday and Monday—I was starting to get very depressed,” Burnett told The Associated Press on Saturday. “When it started snowing [Friday] and I saw it was heavy, wet snow, I was really worried.”
Burnett said her lights flickered, but the power remained on.
In New York’s capital region of Albany, crews worked to restore power to nearly 20,000 customers as heavy, damp snow snapped tree branches.
The sprawling storm system spawned straight-line winds, possible tornadoes and powerful thunderstorms in the South on Friday.
At least five deaths were reported in hard-hit Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear said Saturday. The storm, with wind gusts surpassing 70 mph, downed trees and power lines and damaged homes and other buildings.
“This is very significant, widespread damage throughout Kentucky,” Beshear said.
In central Tennessee, where the severe weather took down power lines and damaged homes, at least two deaths were blamed on the storm. In both cases, the victims were struck by falling trees, authorities told local news outlets.
About 728,000 utility customers in Kentucky, Michigan, and Tennessee were without power, according to PowerOutage.us. More than 330,000 of those customers were in Kentucky, and the governor warned it would take days for utility crews to fully restore service.
Kentucky’s electric cooperatives reported hundreds of snapped utility poles and thousands of power lines down across the Bluegrass State. Soft ground from heavy rains slowed the progress of heavy equipment to access damaged infrastructure.
At the height of the windstorm, more than 300,000 consumer-members lost power in Kentucky, the co-ops said. By early Saturday afternoon, about 148,000 members remained without power.
“The damage from this event is as widespread as any natural disaster I have ever seen in Kentucky co-op history,” said Chris Perry, president and CEO of Kentucky Electric Cooperatives.
In Alabama, a 70-year-old man sitting in his truck in Talledega County was killed when a tree fell onto his vehicle. A 43-year-old man in Lauderdale County and a man in Huntsville also were killed by falling trees Friday, local authorities said. Heavy rain caused flooding in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas.
In southwest Arkansas, Betty Andrews told KSLA-TV that she and her husband took shelter in the bathroom of their mobile home while a tornado moved through.
“It was very scary. I opened the front door to look out and saw it coming. I grabbed Kevin and went and got into the bathtub,” Andrews said. “We hunkered down, and I said some prayers until it passed.”
They were OK but the home sustained major damage and the couple was temporarily trapped in the bathroom until a neighbor cleared debris from outside the door.
The storm system previously slammed California with as much as 10 feet of snow. Search crews have rescued several Californians stranded in the state’s mountain communities, and some residents east of Los Angeles will likely remain cut off in their homes for at least another week after the snowfall proved too much to handle for most plows.
By Bruce Schreiner, David Sharp, and Corey Williams