Residents try to free a house panel from where it was lodged against a tree after a tornado in Bennet, Neb., on Oct. 4, 2013. / Nati Harnik, AP
While a weak Tropical Storm Karen limped along the Gulf Coast late Saturday, other parts of the country were cleaning up from a powerful autumn storm that unleashed both record snowfall and violent tornadoes.
At the same time, Southern California was dealing with high winds that threatened to whip up wildfires and the East Coast was seeing temperatures more typical of July than October.
In the north-central U.S., residents of Wyoming and South Dakota were digging out Saturday from a ferocious, record-setting blizzard, one in which snow was measured in feet, not inches. One location - Deadwood, S.D. - had picked up 4 feet of snow as of midday Saturday.
"I've lived in Wyoming my whole life and I've never seen it like this this early," said Patricia Whitman, shift manager at the Flying J truck stop in Gillette. She said her truck stop's parking lot was full of travelers waiting out the storm.
Three deaths were blamed on the snowstorm after a traffic accident in Nebraska, which also picked up some snow.
In Rapid City, S.D., the storm's total snowfall of 23.1 inches was the city's second-biggest snowstorm on record. At least 80 people in the Rapid City area had been trapped overnight in their cars.
Although early October snowfalls aren't unusual for the region, a storm of such magnitude happens only once every decade or two on the Plains, National Weather Service meteorologist Steve Trimarchi said.
By Sunday, the storm will move away from west to east, temperatures will rebound and much of the snow at lower elevations will melt, according to AccuWeather meteorologist Courtney Spamer. She added that high temperatures are forecast to reach the 60s and 70s this week across the region.
To the east, the same storm that brought snow to South Dakota and Wyoming whipped up tornadoes late Friday in Nebraska and Iowa.
There may have been 12 separate tornadoes from northeast Nebraska into northwest Iowa, according to Weather Channel meteorologist Greg Forbes.
Some of the most severe tornado damage was in Wayne, Neb., where at least 10 buildings were destroyed and five were heavily damaged.
Wayne Mayor Ken Chamberlain said at least 15 people were injured, with one person in critical condition. No one was reported killed in that tornado or in any of the others. He said the storm caused millions of dollars in damage to an area that includes businesses and the city's softball complex.
Weather service meteorologists were conducting storm surveys Saturday to determine the final tornado count, as well as their rating on the Enhanced Fujita scale of tornado intensity.
These are the first October tornadoes in Nebraska since 2001 and in Iowa since 2007, The Weather Channel reports.
In Southern California, winds that gusted as high as 75 mph early Saturday raised fears of wildfires in the drought-plagued state. "A prolonged period of strong Santa Ana winds will continue to bring extreme fire danger to the region through Sunday," the weather service warned in an online bulletin.
"There is a significant threat of large fires with explosive fire growth potential," the weather service noted. "In fact, we have not seen this significant of a fire weather threat in the past five years."
And in the East, temperatures soared well into the 80s as far north as Pennsylvania. Several record highs were set on Friday in New Jersey.
As for Tropical Storm Karen, as of late afternoon Saturday, Karen was a 40-mph tropical storm, just 1 mph above the minimum threshold of a tropical storm. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center said the storm was about 100 miles offshore and was crawling to the north at 2 mph, but was expected to gather forward speed overnight and slide ashore early Sunday in southeastern Louisiana.
It should weaken to a tropical depression on Sunday.
Contributing: The Associated Press
Copyright 2013USA TODAY
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