Powerful winter storm pushes eastward

Posted at 6:24 AM, Feb 21, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-21 08:24:51-05

By Tom Watkins

(CNN) — Parts of the Eastern United States braced Friday for freezing rain and snow as a powerful winter storm lumbered through the Great Lakes, driving thunderstorms eastward.

The National Weather Service predicted the storm would affect the Upper Midwest, Great Lakes and the Northeast, with blizzard conditions in Minnesota and Iowa and strong winds across a portion of the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley.

Severe storms — with wind and large hail — are possible from Boston to Miami, said CNN meteorologist Sherri Pugh.

And there is a risk of tornadoes from the Southeast coast to the lower Mid-Atlantic coast, she said.

Heavy rains and temperatures warm enough to melt snow have raised the risk of flooding, with flood watches being issued for Cleveland, Philadelphia and Buffalo, New York.

Early Friday, the Federal Aviation Administration website was showing delays only out of North Carolina’s Charlotte-Douglas International, Philadelphia International and New York’s LaGuardia airports.

Severe storms, including possible tornadoes, struck Illinois late Thursday afternoon, knocking out power, damaging buildings and spawning floods, the National Weather Service reported.

On Thursday night, storms and high winds swept across Tennessee, pelting Nashville with rain and hail and leaving thousands in the dark.

In Illinois, damaging wind and golf ball-size hail were reported overnight. About 24,000 people in the state lost power, according to utility Ameren Illinois.

Effingham and Champaign counties in Illinois reported flooding.

“We have some power lines down and a little water in the road in some places,” said Pam Jacobs, director of the Effingham County Emergency Management Agency.

John Dwyer, emergency management coordinator for Champaign County, reported road flooding and standing water in farm fields. He said the flooding was caused by 3 inches of rain Thursday coupled with the snow melt. The National Weather Service said radar indicated rainfall of 3 to 4 inches per hour.

The Illinois State Police reported that fog caused a wreck on Interstate 57 in northeast Illinois, involving at least 27 vehicles. Authorities said they received reports of injuries, none of them life-threatening.

In Tennessee, Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division reported that 4,450 customers lost power at the peak of outages in Shelby County, Tennessee, which includes Memphis.

As the storm moved eastward, winds knocked down dozens of trees in Nashville, reported CNN affiliate WSMV-TV. The station said trained weather spotters reported 1-inch hail and 95-mph winds.

CNN’s Ed Payne and Ralph Ellis contributed to this report.

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