Frigid Winds Whip into the Northeast

10 February 2008 | 07:52 Code : 16714 Geoscience events
Lake Erie surged over its eastern shore Wednesday, adding flooding to the headac....

  Lake Erie surged over its eastern shore Wednesday, adding flooding to the headaches delivered by a windy storm that tipped tractor-trailers, disrupted flights, and toppled trees and power lines across a wide swath of the nation. Arctic air roared into New York before dawn, sending Tuesday's spring like temperatures plummeting. Buffalo went from 53 degrees at 3 a.m. Wednesday to 15 degrees by noon. Classes were canceled at most area schools. High winds were suspected of collapsing a scaffold at a Brooklyn building that killed a construction worker and seriously injured another Wednesday morning. In northern Ohio, a train traveling in high winds derailed on a bridge over Sandusky Bay around 4 a.m., sending about 10 freight cars into the water, said Ottawa County Sheriff Robert Bratton. No injuries were reported. Authorities on Tuesday rescued five people camping in a van near Elkton, Ore., the Douglas County sheriff's office said. They had planned to leave Sunday but were trapped by snow. With supplies dwindling, one man hiked to find cell phone service and to contact relatives in Tacoma, Wash., who then notified authorities. In Washington State, an avalanche trapped two cars and forced the closure of the westbound lane of snowy Interstate 90, the state's main east-west thoroughfare, at Snoqualmie Pass. No one was injured in the avalanche, which occurred just hours after the road was reopened following its longest weather closure since 2002.The National Weather Service in Buffalo reported sustained winds of 40 to 50 mph, with a gust of 68 mph. Gusts of 46 mph were reported at LaGuardia Airport and close to 50 mph at Kennedy Airport. Several inches of icy water covered some roads in Buffalo's Old First Ward neighborhood after Lake Erie suddenly rose 10 1/2 feet around 6 a.m. and left behind chunks of ice as it receded through the morning." Lake Erie is so shallow that when you get a wind shift of such magnitude ... it's almost like in a bathtub when you get the water moving back and forth," Weather Service meteorologist Joseph Pace explained. At least two tractor-trailers blew over on the New York State Thruway in western New York. Accidents led the state police to temporarily close a 60-mile stretch of the highway between Buffalo and Rochester. A 25-vehicle pileup on Interstate 81 south of Watertown during whiteout conditions forced the closure of the southbound lane. Utilities worked to restore power to thousands of customers from Illinois to New York and West Virginia. In Chicago, rush-hour commuters scurried to work through the bitter cold." I'm actually looking forward to work," said Tom Gilmartin.A 74-year-old man whose truck ran into a ditch was found frozen on a neighbor's porch Wednesday, just short of the doorbell, said police in Kankakee County, Ill. Two major highways in southern Minnesota reopened early Wednesday as wind died down and snow stopped falling, but the state remained in a deep freeze, with the temperature dipping to minus 27 in the northeast. As the sometimes unpredictable storm barreled eastward Tuesday, tornadoes or reports of tornadoes surfaced in several communities. A twister hop scotched through Louisville, Ky., on Tuesday night, tearing the roofs from several buildings and toppling trees and power lines. Joe Sullivan, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said tornadoes touched down three times in the metro area. In Indiana, severe thunderstorms packing wind gusts of 80 mph killed three people in mobile homes and a fourth who died in a car crash, authorities said. Firefighters pulled the bodies of an elderly woman and her daughter from a mobile home flipped over by the wind Tuesday night near Posey Ville in southwestern Indiana. The weather week began with heavy snow pummeling mountain areas from Washington State to northern Arizona as two storms converged, one from California and another from the Gulf of Alaska, meteorologists said. Another storm soon followed. A fourth was on the way to the interior West. "By Thursday, the next storm will be right on our doorstep. This is quite a storm system," said Jay Redenbacher of the Weather Service office in Boise, Idaho. Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Amy Westfield in New York City; P. Solomon Banda in Denver; Ryan Lenz in Posey Ville, Ind.; and Sophia Tareen and Michael Tram in Chicago.

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