By Mary Wisniewski, Reuters
CHICAGO — A major early spring storm brought heavy snow, severe thunderstorms and floods as it moved east across the United States on Saturday, closing highways and causing a pileup involving dozens of vehicles.
Baseball-sized hail was reported in northern Florida, along with possible tornadoes, while heavy snow in Colorado and Kansas delayed flights and shut down part of Interstate-70.
A crash involving up to 50 vehicles closed part of Interstate-25 near Loveland, Colorado, north of Denver. There did not appear to be major injuries, but many cars needed to be moved off the road, said Mindy Crane, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Transportation.
More than 200 miles of I-70 were closed in both directions from near Denver to Colby, Kansas, due to poor visibility.
“All in all, this is a pretty nasty storm,” said AccuWeather.com senior meteorologist Tom Kines.
Crane said there was no estimate for the reopening of the I-25. “We’re seeing 40-miles-per-hour gusts.”
The snow in the Loveland area was reported to be at least 10 to 12 inches deep, she said.
Snow delayed arriving flights at Denver International Airport, said spokesman Heath Montgomery.
The snow was expected to move east to Kansas City, St. Louis, Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio, over the next 24 hours, before moving into the mid-Atlantic states, Kines said.
Rough weather also was forecast in the Gulf Coast region from Florida to eastern Texas throughout Saturday, with large hail, damaging winds and possible tornadoes, Kines said.
In northern Florida, the National Weather Service in Jacksonville had reports of high winds and possible tornado touchdowns, though no twisters have been confirmed, according to meteorologist Phil Peterson.
Peterson said the weather service also had reports of baseball-sized hail west of Lawtey, Florida, early in the afternoon. Lake City received two inches of heavy rain in 30 minutes, he said.
Published: Mar 19, 2013, 9:01 AM EDT weather.com
Winter Storm Ukko‘s severe side brought severe weather into the southern states, including intense thunderstorms that produced huge hailstones throughout the southern United States. The interactive map above shows tornado reports (in red) and high wind/wind damage reports (blue arrows). Click on each icon to see each report.
Two tornadoes have been confirmed so far:
- Near McEwen, Tenn.: “High-end” EF1 with maximum winds estimated at 105 mph was on the ground for 10.6 miles starting at 7:40 a.m. CDT. Outbuildings and one home were damaged. One mobile home was destroyed.
- Southeast of Murfreesboro, Tenn.: EF0 with maximum estimated winds of 85 mph was on the ground for 3.8 miles crossing Interstate 24. Outbuildings were damaged.
In all, there were 264 reports of severe weather Monday and Monday night across seven states from southeast Arkansas and northeast Louisiana to South Carolina. For the entire month of March prior to Monday, there had been a total of 165 severe reports, including just a single tornado.
Hail storm caused damage across Metro
Large Baseball Sized Hail Storm, USA – March 19, 2013
iWitness: Large Hail In Mississippi
In Mississippi, authorities reported two people were hit on the head by large hail as the enormous storm front crossed the region Monday. Fire official Tim Shanks said baseball-sized hail smashed windows in several vehicles in Clinton, where the two people were hit. He had no immediate word on their condition.
Hail to the size of softballs was reported around Jackson, Mississippi, and emergency officials in the state say there were reports of homes damaged in at least five Mississippi counties. Cars could be seen driving along the interstate with broken windows and cracked windshields.
In Georgia, Hartsfield-Jackson airport officials issued a groundstop as severe storms barreled into the nation’s busiest international airline hub. Fulton County Emergency officials cited several reports of golf ball sized hail at the airport. Delta Flight 2133 was rerouted back to Charlotte, N.C., due to unsafe weather conditions in Atlanta.
Georgia Power officials said 73,000 customers were without power Monday night, and of that number, 31,000 were in northwest Georgia.
In Alabama, winds were clocked at 80 mph in some areas. Eight people in the Gadsden area and five others in the county were hospitalized Monday night. A roof was ripped from a school in Collinsville, about 15 miles southwest of Fort Payne. More than 200,000 customers in Alabama were without power due to the storms.
Etowah County, Ala. officials said a person had to be removed from a house in Rainbow City after a tree fell onto it. Nearly two dozen trees had toppled onto Alabama Highway 77.
In Tennessee, heavy rain helped firefighters contain a wildfire that burned nearly 60 rental cabins in a resort area outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Silver Creek, Ga.
A house is damaged after a large tree fell across it during a brief, severe thunderstorm in Center Point, Ala., Monday, March 18, 2013. (AP Photo/AL.com, Mark Almond)
A car drives around downed trees in Clay, Ala., Monday, March 18, 2013. (AP Photo/AL.com, Joe Songer)