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Midwest hit by snowstorm as California battles wildfires

May 02, 2013|By Michael Muskal

It may be spring, but the United States on Thursday found parts of its midsection caught in the grip of record snow and ice while in part of California wildfires were spreading woe.

The upper Midwest, particularly Minnesota and Wisconsin, were struggling to cope with late-season snow a good six weeks past the start of spring.

“A historic May snowstorm will slowly wind down [Thursday] afternoon across western Wisconsin, with light snow continuing into [Thursday night],” the National Weather Service predicted. “Friday into Friday night, precipitation will spread back west across the area, starting as snow Friday morning but transitioning to rain in the afternoon and staying that way into Saturday.

“Next week will feature a return to highs in the 60s with dry weather, at least for the start of the week,” the weather service predicted.

The weather service said it had received reports of more than a foot of snow in many parts of southeastern Minnesota, with Owatonna recording a high of about 15.5 inches. The heavy, wet snow brought the usual problems of downed electrical lines, cutting power to about 10,000 people and briefly forcing traffic to close along portions of Interstate 35. School was also canceled in some areas.

The Twin Cities area itself remained dry, according to the weather service.

Western Wisconsin was also feeling the lash of the spring storm, with Hayward reporting 15 inches and Baldwin and Ellsworth each reporting more than 14 inches. Predictions were that the heavy snow could drop up to 18 inches in some areas.

Like its neighbor, Wisconsin also reported travel hindrances on some roads, including parts of U.S. highways 53, 63 and 70.

The situation in the Midwest was in sharp contrast to California, where firefighters continued to battle the Summit fire that burned about 3,000 acres of vegetation near Banning. The fire is about 40% contained, the Riverside County Fire Department reported Thursday morning.

In addition, a second firefighter was injured overnight. One home has been destroyed.

A much smaller brush fire broke out in Camarillo, in Ventura County, on Thursday morning and had spread quickly in steep terrain as air resources were called in, fire officials said.

The weather patterns offered a contrast that would have appealed to poet Robert Frost, whose famed poem “Fire and Ice” compares the contradictions of the two forms of natural power to the dichotomy between love and hate, concluding that both are equally up to the task of destruction.

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michael.muskal@latimes.com

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