Winds Shred Southern Plains; California to See More Snow

The Associated Press
By The Associated Press
February 27, 2023US News
Winds Shred Southern Plains; California to See More Snow
Storm clouds and snow over the San Gabriel mountain range behind Griffith Observatory in the Hollywood Hills part of Los Angeles on Feb. 26, 2023. (Richard Vogel/AP Photo)

OKLAHOMA CITY—Parts of the Southern Plains counted the injured and surveyed the damage Monday after tornadoes and other powerful winds swept through, while some Michigan residents faced a fifth consecutive day without power following last week’s ice storm.

In California, the National Weather Service said a series of winter storm systems will continue moving into the state through Wednesday after residents got a brief break from severe weather Sunday.

Parts of the Northeast that have seen little snow this winter were under a winter storm warning. And forecasters warned of continued high winds in parts of the Plains and of thunderstorms and possible tornadoes in the Ohio Valley.

A look at the weather threats around the country:

Tornado Cleanup, Forecast

Police in Norman, Oklahoma, responded Sunday night to storm damage in parts of the city, about 20 miles south of Oklahoma City. Officials said there were 12 confirmed weather-related injuries there, none considered critical.

Crews canvassed the damaged area looking for others who might be injured. Possible tornadoes and wind gusts as high as 90 mph were reported in Oklahoma, with downed trees and power lines, road closures, and damage to homes and businesses around Norman, Shawnee and Cheyenne. Classes were canceled Monday at two damaged elementary schools, said Norman Police Chief Kevin Foster.

Frances Tabler, of Norman, told KOCO-TV that she suffered a small cut on her head when a storm hit her home, tearing off much of its roof and sending debris flying. She said it was a miracle her children weren’t hurt, although her daughter was trapped for awhile in a bedroom.

“I could hear the wind coming. All of a sudden all the back windows, where the kids bedrooms are, I could hear them just crashing, busting out. And I got up, and then the wind just threw me back, and I’m screaming,” Tabler told KOCO. “It was just like a blizzard in the house with all the debris flying. I was screaming for my kids.”

The line of quick-moving thunderstorms that produced a swath of damaging wind gusts across multiple states likely qualified the event as a derecho, although that’s not an official designation, said Nolan Meister, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Meister said a wind gust of 114 mph was recorded in Texas, with gusts between 70 and 90 mph in central Oklahoma.

“It hit real hard in about 20 minutes and it was gone,” said Cindy Woodard, city secretary in the Texas Panhandle city of Memphis, about 90 miles southeast of Amarillo, where the 114 mph gust was recorded.

There were broken windows, toppled trees and blown-over carports but no reports of injuries, Woodard said.

More than 76,000 customers lost power in Oklahoma at the height of the storm Sunday night, although most had it restored by Monday morning, Oklahoma’s Office of Emergency Management reported.

A tornado touched down Sunday near Liberal, Kansas, the weather service said, and more than a dozen homes were reported damaged, according to KSNW-TV. One person had minor injuries, the station said.

There were reports of nine tornadoes in Kansas, Oklahoma and northwestern Texas, said Bob Oravec, a lead forecaster for the weather service. Weather service teams planned to survey storm damage Monday to determine the strength of the tornadoes.

The severe weather threat remained Monday, with thunderstorms expected to produce damaging gusts across the Ohio Valley, according to the Storm Prediction Center. At least a few tornadoes are were possible, especially across Ohio on Monday afternoon, the center said. The weather service forecast strong winds Monday in Kansas and Missouri, with gusts topping 60 mph (96 kph).

Blizzard Warning in California

Blizzard warnings began going into effect Monday in the Sierra Nevada range as more rounds of rain and snow entered California from the north and moved south.

The new series of storms arrived even as parts of the state were still digging out from last week’s powerful storm, which added to a massive snowpack left by a siege of “atmospheric rivers” in December and January.

In the Sierra, Yosemite National Park announced it would be closed until midweek, and numerous roads were closed in Sequoia National Park. Trans-Sierra highways were subject to closures and chain requirements.

East of Los Angeles, all roads leading up to San Bernardino Mountain resort communities around Big Bear Lake remained closed because of last week’s huge snowfall. One route leading down to the Mojave Desert was open only to downhill traffic. In the San Gabriel Mountains, roads remained closed to the Mountain High resort, where the storm dumped 7 3/4 feet of snow.

Suburban Santa Clarita, in hills north of Los Angeles, received its first significant snowfall since 1989.

“We went outside and we let our sons play in the snow,” resident Cesar Torres told the Santa Clarita Signal. “We figured, while the snow’s there, might as well make a snowman out of it.”

Northeast Snowstorm

While not expecting a blockbuster storm by regional standards, southern New England braced for what could be the most significant snowfall of what has so far been a mild winter.

A winter storm warning covered parts of the Northeast, including Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island, with heavy snow forecast for Monday evening through Tuesday afternoon.

Boston could get 5 inches and a messy Tuesday morning commute, according to the weather service. As much as 10 inches could fall in western Massachusetts, northwest Connecticut and southern Vermont.

Michigan Ice Storm

In Michigan, crews continued to work to restore electricity. Leah Thomas, whose home north of Detroit lost power Wednesday night, finally got her power back late Sunday afternoon.

Thomas said she feels lucky that she and their 17-year-old son were able to stay at her parents’ nearby home, which still had power, while they are in Florida.

With her husband traveling out of town, Thomas said it was up to her to recharge the battery to their home’s backup sump pump Sunday with her car. She went to multiple stores to find a long cable for the task.

Although her basement didn’t flood during the outage, Thomas said Monday morning that she lost all the food in her refrigerator, including about $200 worth of prepared meals she had in her freezer. She said she would have moved her food to her parents’ freezer but did not because DTE Energy had repeatedly notified her that her home’s power would be back on soon.

Instead, it took nearly four days for the power to be restored.

“We did lose all our food because we didn’t realize the outage was going to be so long. DTE kept telling us the power would be back the same day,” Thomas said.

With the local school district on midwinter break, she said, some of their neighbors have been out of town and will return to find a mess from burst water pipes and flooded basements.

“They don’t know what they’re coming home to,” she said.

In Michigan, parts of which were still reeling from the ice storm and high winds, more than 144,000 customers remained without power early Monday, according to

By John Antczak and Sean Murphy

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