Spring blizzard pounds Midwest; flights canceled, deaths reported
Amid a spring blizzard in the Midwest that prompted hundreds of flights to be canceled Saturday, one runway has reopened at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, officials said Sunday.
A total of 469 flights had been canceled at the Minnesota airport alone, airport spokesman Patrick Hogan said. All of Saturday’s incoming and outgoing flights were canceled because of heavy snowfall and low visibility.
The snow was coming down too fast for plows to keep the runways clear or for crews to keep the planes deiced, airport officials said.
Hogan said crews were working to get other runways open.
St. Paul also declared a snow emergency, as blizzard warnings continued into Sunday, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
“This system will rank up there as one of the most significant winter storms in some time,” read a Weather Service report early Saturday. It declared the storm “historic,” shortly after, the Star Tribune reported.
“This system will rank up there as one of the most significant winter storms in some time.”
“This is certainly one of the more powerful [storms] in recent memory,” Jacob Beitlich, a Weather Service meteorologist, said, according to the paper. “Any time you close a Twin Cities airport, it’s gotta be usually a pretty bad snowstorm.”
Blizzard conditions have closed the airport for two days in Sioux Falls, South Dakota’s largest city.
The snowfall, part of a storm system stretching from the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes, brought snow, tornadoes, rain and hail.
At least three weather-related deaths occurred in Wisconsin, Nebraska and Louisiana.
In Wisconsin, a woman was killed when she lost control of the minivan she was driving and struck an oncoming SUV near Lewiston. Three passengers in the minivan and the SUV driver were hospitalized.
On Friday, a truck driver from Idaho lost control of his rig on snow-covered Interstate 80 in western Nebraska, near Chappell, and slammed into a stranded tractor-trailer, according to the Nebraska State Patrol. He died at the scene.
In Louisiana, winds downed a tree onto a mobile home in Haughton, killing a sleeping 2-year-old girl inside, according to the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office.
In Arkansas, a tornado ripped through the tiny Ozark Mountain town of Mountainburg on Friday, injuring at least four people.
By Saturday night, Minneapolis was buried under more than 13 inches of snow.
It marked the first time a blizzard has descended on the metro area of the Twin Cities since 2005, the Star Tribune said, citing the National Weather Service.
Hundreds of crashes and spinouts were reported across the state, according to the Star Tribune. One fatality occurred Saturday when a vehicle struck a pedestrian in Medina, but it was unclear whether it was weather-related.
The Minnesota Twins home game against the Chicago White Sox was snowed out Saturday, marking the first back-to-back postponements of baseball games in Target Field’s nine seasons. Sunday’s game was also called off because of the storm.
The Yankees and Tigers were rained out Saturday in Detroit.
“It’s a cool experience for me, the best Minneapolis experience,” Niko Heiligman, of Aachen, Germany, said as he braved the snow Saturday to take a walk along the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis. “I’m only here for the weekend, so I guess that’s how it goes. There’s snow and it’s cold. So it’s good.”
The weather is expected to persist through Sunday in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan before moving into New York state and New England.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.