Climate ChangeCondolenceDisasterNorth America

Sprawling storms wallop US with tornado reports, damage and heavy snow, closing roads and schools

  Matt Stilwell of Des Moines, Iowa, uses a snowblower to clear his driveway and sidewalk at him home Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024 in Des Moines, Iowa. It was the first significant snowfall of this winter in the area. (AP Photo/Scott McFetridge)

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A sprawling storm hit the U.S. South, with tornado warnings and high winds that blew roofs off homes, flipped over campers and tossed about furniture in Florida on Tuesday, while another storm buried cities across the Midwest in more than a half a foot of snow, stranding people on highways as it headed to the Northeast.

The weather has already affected campaigning for Iowa’s Jan. 15 precinct caucuses, where the snow is expected to be followed by frigid temperatures that could drift below zero degrees (minus 18 Celsius). It forced former President Donald Trump’s campaign to cancel multiple appearances by Arkansas Gov. Sarah Sanders and her father, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who had been scheduled to court Iowa voters on Trump’s behalf Monday.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at Tuesday’s briefing that winter storms continue to be a threat across the country.

“We are closely monitoring the weather, and we encourage all Americans to do the same,” she said.

At least three deaths were attributed to the storm pummeling the South, where 55 mph (88 kph) winds and hail moved through the Florida Panhandle and into parts of Alabama and Georgia by sunrise Tuesday, along with several reports of radar-confirmed tornadoes, the National Weather Service said. A wind gust of 106 mph (171 kph) was recorded before dawn near the coast in Walton County, Florida.

Near Cottonwood, Alabama, a small city near the Georgia and Florida borders, 81-year-old Charlotte Paschal was killed when her mobile home was tossed from its foundation, the Houston County coroner said. A suspected tornado had touched down in the area.

Police in Clayton County, south of Atlanta, say a man died during heavy rain when a tree fell on his car on a state highway in Jonesboro.

Storm-related injuries were reported in Florida, but no deaths. A section of Panama City Beach, Florida, showed parts of roofs blown away, furniture, fences and debris strewn about, and a house that appeared tilted on its side, leaning on another home. About 10 miles (16 kilometers) away in Panama City, police early Tuesday asked residents to stay indoors and off the roads “unless absolutely necessary.” Both cities are in Bay County, where multiple tornadoes were reported, Sheriff Tommy Ford said in a brief Facebook Live post.

The Walton County sheriff’s department in the Florida Panhandle posted photos of power lines draped across a road, damage to a gas station and large pieces of building materials littering the area. About 70 miles (112 kilometers) northeast, in Jackson County, Florida, photos showing damage to a campground and RV park in Marianna were posted.

The National Weather Service office in Tallahassee is planning to send out three tornado survey teams on Wednesday to examine suspected tornado damage in Walton, Bay and Jackson counties in Florida, and two more on Thursday to look at Houston County, Alabama, and Calhoun County, Georgia.More than 200,000 customers were without power in Florida, Alabama, and Georgia, while nearly 150,000 people in North Carolina lacked electricity, according to the website.

Massachusetts electricity provider National Grid said they were prepared for possible hazardous wind gusts and heavy rains and have additional crews and personnel to respond to any power outages

By Associated Press

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