Westar Energy crews work on snow-covered power lines in Lawrence, Kan., on Feb. 26. / Orlin Wagner, AP
The second winter storm in a week, this one featuring heavy, wet snow and driving winds, pounded parts of the Plains and Midwest on Tuesday, closing schools, snarling transportation and knocking out power to tens of thousands of homes and businesses.
The storm was dumping snow on Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin Tuesday afternoon. Chicago was seeing heavy snow - with 2 inches reported so far - and was expecting about 6 inches of snow and ice. Detroit was also expecting this amount later in the day and overnight.
The snow has stopped in Kansas and Oklahoma.
The weight of the snow strained power lines and cut electricity to more than 100,000 homes and businesses. At least three deaths were blamed on the snowstorm.
Kansas City, Mo., Mayor Sly James declared an emergency, his city still recovering from the storm that dumped nearly a foot of snow just five days earlier. He urged residents to stay home. The snow was winding down in there with about 10 inches on the ground.
Airlines have canceled more than 2,000 flights during the past 72 hours and were waiving fees for passengers scrambling to make connections through the storm's path. FlightStats reported 394 cancellations at Chicago O'Hare and 155 at Kansas City alone as of midday Tuesday.
Metro Detroit's snowfall total for this winter is already 4.5 inches above normal, said National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Richter. Richter said the area already has recorded 37.4 inches of snow this winter, less than 2 inches off the average for an entire winter.
At Lozon Ace Hardware in suburban River Rouge, office manager Amy Lozon said there hasn't been a big rush on snow supplies. "People pretty much have what they need for this winter. March is just around the corner, there is light at the end of the tunnel," she said.
On the warmer side of the storm in the East, flash flood watches are in effect Tuesday for much of the Gulf Coast and Southeast from Louisiana to South Carolina, the weather service reported.
Ice storm warnings and freezing rain advisories are in effect for portions of West Virginia and Virginia, while much of central Florida is under a tornado watch. A waterspout was seen moving ashore in Tampa this morning, while a tornado was reported Monday near St. George Island, Fla.
The storm already was being blamed for three deaths - in Kansas, two people were killed in rollover car crashes on Interstate 70. And in the northwest town of Woodward, Okla., heavy snow caused a roof to collapse, killing one person inside the home.
The snowstorm helped push Wichita to its snowiest single month on record, the weather service reported. So far this month, 21 inches of snow has fallen in the city, breaking the old record of 20.5 inches set in February 1913.
The storm will continue to dump snow across the Lower Great Lakes region Tuesday night and into northern New York State and northern New England on Wednesday, the weather service reported..
Amarillo saw about 20 inches of snow Monday. Follett, Texas, had the state's highest total, with 21 inches, the weather service reported. Other top totals from other states: 27.2 inches in Pinecliffe, Colo.; 18 inches in Fort Supply, Okla.; and 10 inches in Carbondale, Kan.
Along with the snow, a weather station in Pantex, Texas, reported a wind gust Monday morning of 77 mph. A wind gust of 84 mph was reported near El Paso, well south of the snowstorm.
In the drought-stricken Plains, thirsting for moisture, the storm could help replenish the groundwater. Climatologists say 12 inches of snow is equivalent to about 1 inch of rain, depending on the density of the snow.
"Is it a drought buster? Absolutely not," Victor Murphy with the weather service in Fort Worth said. "Will it bring short-term improvement? Yes."
Contributing: Ben Mutzabaugh; Christina Hall and Megha Satyanarayana, Detroit Free Press; Associated Press
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