At least 13 people are dead as severe storms bring tornadoes, flooding to South; head to Northeast

ByElizabeth Wolfe, Rob Shackelford and Alaa Elassar, CNN
Saturday, March 4, 2023
Severe weather making its way across the country after dumping massive amounts of snow in California
Several reported tornadoes touched down across the south over the past 24 hours

At least 13 people have died in multiple states due to severe weather across the country as a powerful storm system that brought golf ball-sized hail and tornadoes to the South continues to march Saturday across the Northeast.

The storm spurred wind gusts strong enough to topple tractor-trailer trucks, leaving more than 1 million people without power and threatening to bring more torrential rain, tornadoes and heavy snow.

The storm system is the same that dumped feet of snow across parts of California, leaving some trapped in their homes with snow piled as high as second-story windows and prompting the governor to declare a state of emergency in 13 counties. Many of those affected are now bracing for another round of snow and rain on Saturday from a new system.

At least five Kentuckians have died in connection with the severe weather that hit the area Friday, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said during a news briefing on Saturday.

CNN previously reported four deaths across the commonwealth in Edmonson, Simpson, Logan and Fayette counties. The additional death being reported was an 84-year-old man in Bath County, Beshear said.

Beshear said it will take days to restore power in some places, and that as of 11:11 a.m. ET Saturday, 396,517 Kentuckians were without power. He said 1,874 Kentuckians are under a boil water advisory with five water districts working under limited operations.

In Tennessee, two people died. A man was killed after a tree fell on the vehicle he was riding in, the Humphreys County Emergency Management Agency told CNN via email. An elderly woman in Hendersonville died after a tree fell on her while she was walking with a neighbor Friday, according to a news release from the City of Hendersonville.

Three other people died in Alabama, one in Arkansas, one in Mississippi and one in California, according to officials.

Nearly 15 million people were under winter weather alerts as of 8:45 a.m. ET Saturday along the West Coast and in New England, with another 25 million under wind alerts.

According to PowerOutage.us, about 1.2 million customers were without power Saturday, with Kentucky, Michigan, Tennessee, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia reporting the most outages.

Heavy snow is forecast through Saturday afternoon in northern New England, according to the National Weather Service, with a rain/snow mix in Massachusetts.

"Storm total amounts of 6 to 12 inches looks to occur within much of the Mohawk Valley, Adirondacks, Lake George Saratoga Region and southern Vermont," the National Weather Service in Albany, New York, wrote.

Weather brings tornadoes, flood warnings to the South

A tornado was confirmed at 11:12 a.m. CT Friday just south of Reidland, Kentucky, moving northeast at 55 mph.

Flash flood warnings at one point stretched about 400 miles across portions of Missouri and Indiana.

Meanwhile, more than 300,000 people remain under flood watches from Arkansas to Ohio.

In Texas, Louisiana and Alabama, the storms damaged homes and businesses and caused flight disruptions at airports Thursday.

Six tornadoes were reported during Thursday's storms, including five in Texas and one in Louisiana, where dozens of homes were damaged in the city of Shreveport. Across Texas and Oklahoma, there were 18 hail reports, with the largest hailstones reportedly 1.75 inches in diameter, or roughly the size of a golf ball.

Snow-buried California communities brace for another round

After a brief reprieve from back-to-back winter storms that have brought unseasonably cold temperatures and prompted rare blizzard warnings in parts of California, snow is again forecast in the higher elevations along the West Coast.

"An additional several feet of snow will be possible in these areas, with the heaviest of these totals likely in the northern Sierra Range. On Sunday, precipitation will spread inland, with heavy snow possible in the higher terrains of the Intermountain West," the weather service explained.

By the end of the weekend, 1 to 5 feet of snow is possible across some northern areas, including the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

But many communities blanketed by the last round of snow have yet to recover as snowfall blocked critical roads, trapped them in their homes and damaged vital businesses such as grocery stores.

An 80-year-old woman, Lois Barton, died in a "weather-related" incident in Placer County, sheriff's office spokesperson Angela Musallam told CNN. She did not share the circumstances of the death, though where the incident occurred saw heavy snow and temperatures around freezing on Tuesday, CNN meteorologists said.

Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a state of emergency in 13 counties this week, including hard-hit San Bernardino County where the National Guard arrived Thursday to assist with rescues of snowbound residents and shovel snow off the roads and from rooftops.

A number of structure fires in San Bernardino County appear to be storm-related, the county fire department told CNN. The department said the number of fires is "atypical" but did not provide an exact number.

Gas leaks are believed to be responsible for several house fires in the mountain communities, according to Fire Chief Dan Munsey. Many of them are in areas with unpassable roads. Firefighters are responding to homes using snowcats and often drudging in by foot with shovels and hoses and digging hydrants out of the snow to extinguish flames, Munsey said.

CNN has reached out to Southern California Gas Co., a major provider in the area, on reports of gas leaks.

In the San Bernardino community of Crestline, residents have been immobilized by the copious snowfall and have started to become worried about access to supplies as their sole local grocery store has closed after its roof caved in from heavy snow, resident Paul Solo told CNN.

Emergency crews are still out in force in the snow-laden mountains, eager to clear roads and reach isolated residents with food and supplies.

Rescuers are supplied with meals-ready-to-eat to distribute with those unable to get food, San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus said in a press conference on Friday. First responders will be setting up food distribution points and a convoy with food and other supplies to restock supermarkets will be escorted up the mountain, he added.

Nearly 100 inches of snow have fallen on Crestline and nearby Lake Arrowhead in recent days. Aerial footage from CNN affiliate KCAL shows neighborhoods with indiscernible streets and homes with snow piled to second-story windows.

The only way to get around is by shoveling walkways for emergency exits, Solo said. He added, "Everyone every day has been shoveling, and then it'll snow another two feet."

Solo believes it could be another week or two before the snow is cleared.

"Until then, we are trapped in our house. We couldn't even leave if we wanted to."

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