Massive storm spreads blizzard across Northern Plains, bringing fierce snow and dangerous travel conditions

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The deadly storm system that destroyed homes in the South was producing more tornadoes, freezing rain, treacherous travel and power outages Wednesday.

At least two people were killed Tuesday in Louisiana as the system’s vicious winds tore through communities from Oklahoma to Texas to Mississippi. Another woman was killed by a tornado Wednesday in Killona, St. Charles Parish officials said, adding eight others were injured. A tornado also hit New Orleans Wednesday afternoon and caused damage, though the extent wasn’t immediately clear.

The US Storm Prediction Center said 18 tornadoes had been reported Wednesday in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Now on the cold side of this massive, multifaceted storm, more than 50 million people from Utah, Idaho and Montana all the way to New England are under winter weather or storm alerts Wednesday. In at least four states, about 410,000 people in are under blizzard warnings until Thursday morning.

Here’s what different parts of the country can expect:

• Down along the Gulf Coast, strong tornadoes, damaging winds and large hail Wednesday could impact cities including Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Biloxi and Hattiesburg, Mississippi; and east to Mobile, Alabama. The Storm Prediction Center has issued a tornado watch for the area until 8 p.m. CT and said it is a “particularly dangerous situation.” That designation is used when the most significant threats are expected, including strong, long-tracked tornadoes.

Another tornado watch for parts of Alabama and Florida was in effect until 1 a.m. CT. The watch, which covers more than 2 million people, includes Pensacola and Panama City and Montgomery, Alabama.

• In the Northern Plains, widespread blizzard conditions will continue Wednesday, with whiteouts at times. As winds gust up to 55 mph, blowing snow will make travel dangerous.

Already, a 700-mile stretch of Interstate 80 is closed from Wyoming to Nebraska, where road travel is virtually impossible. Other major interstates – including I-90 and I-94 – could also be crippled.

• In the Upper Midwest and Northern Plains, 8 to 12 inches of snow could fall between Wednesday and Thursday. Cities in northeastern Minnesota could get buried under 2 feet of snow.

• The Central Appalachians – including parts of Virginia, Pennsylvania and the Maryland Panhandle – could get freezing rain totaling between a tenth and a quarter of an inch overnight Wednesday through Thursday evening. An ice storm warning is posted for this area until Thursday night due to significant ice accumulations.

• Parts of Pennsylvania will likely get hit with a double whammy: freezing rain and snow Thursday and Friday.

• Inland portions of New York and New England are expected to be walloped by week’s end by a new storm spawned by the system that will develop into a nor’easter. It will move through the Mid-Atlantic by Thursday, spreading a combination of rain, ice and snow.

• Major Northeastern coastal cities can expect 1 to 2 inches of heavy rain into the weekend from the nor’easter, and “some light but impactful freezing rain, sleet, and snow may mix in during the Thursday morning commute along the I-95 corridor,” the Weather Prediction Center warned.

A ‘one-in-five-year storm’ slams Nebraska

Blizzard warnings are in effect throughout parts of Nebraska, where several roads are closed – including all roadways from Nebraska into Colorado – the state transportation department said.

The “one-in-five-year storm” that began Tuesday is expected to linger through the end of the week, National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Taylor said.

Residents will endure near-zero visibility, hazardous travel conditions and possible power outages.

There are also blizzard warnings in parts of Minnesota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

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