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Separate Storms Hit Midwest, Southeast : Heavy Precipitation Brings Traffic to Standstill, Causes Flooding

February 28, 1987|From Associated Press

A storm moved out of the Southwest and across the Midwestern prairies Friday, bringing travel to a halt, while another storm swamped parts of the Southeast with rain and blanketed the Blue Ridge Mountains with up to a foot of snow.

In Jackson, Miss., the Pearl River rose toward 33 feet, five feet above flood stage and a level high enough to send water over low streets south of downtown.

Rivers and streams throughout the state swelled past flood stage, and forecasters said six more inches of rain was possible before the storm moved out during the weekend.

"With the ground saturated, only an inch of rain from one thunderstorm is likely to result in flash flooding, especially in the urban and flood-prone areas" of Mississippi, the National Weather Service said. "This is a potentially dangerous situation."

Preparing to Evacuate

Residents in low areas prepared to evacuate their homes, and emergency workers set up 24-hour phone lines for weather updates, officials said.

Winter storm warnings were posted from West Virginia to North Carolina, and snow was expected to reach New York and Vermont today.

Up to a foot of snow covered southwest Virginia and 10 inches had fallen in the foothills of North Carolina's Wilkes County.

It was the fourth significant snowfall of the winter in southwest Virginia, where crews have cleared about three feet of snow in the Roanoke-Lynchburg area since late January.

Springlike Warmth Ends

And while only a few flakes fell Friday atop snow-choked sections of Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado, residents of the upper Midwest who had been basking in springlike warmth found that winter was not done with them yet.

Last week, South Dakotans headed into the fields or onto golf courses to take advantage of temperatures in the 60s and 70s. Friday, after as much as 12 inches of snow fell in western South Dakota, Interstate 90 was closed for nearly 90 miles by snowdrifts. The eastern half of the state was pelted by freezing rain.

A foot of snow had fallen in the Nebraska panhandle by early Friday, and officials urged motorists to stay off the roads.

"We've been lucky all winter so I guess we can't complain," said Ramona Ver Maas, dispatcher for the police department in Sidney, Neb., which got 12 inches. "I don't think we'd had over three inches all year."

The rain and snow were spawned by a large Pacific storm system centered over the southern Rockies. Before it moved east, it shut down schools, roads and airports across the Southwest.

Snow Delays Workers

Schools were closed Friday in Cheyenne, Wyo., and city workers did not have to show up for work until noon as the town dug out from under a foot of snow.

Five feet of snow fell in parts of Arizona from Tuesday to Friday, while the snow came down at the rate of an inch an hour in Colorado on Thursday.

The 10 inches of snow that Los Alamos, N.M., received made this season the snowiest on record for the area, with a total of 131 inches. The old record of 123.6 inches was set in 1957.

An 89-year-old Flagstaff, Ariz., woman froze to death in a blizzard, and a 75-year-old Navajo woman was reported missing on the reservation in northeastern Arizona.

The Hopi tribe planned to deliver 40 tons of hay for animals starving in the 24-inch snowpack, tribal Chairman Ivan Sidney said.

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