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Deadly spring storm brings blizzard conditions to the Plains and the threat of strong tornadoes to the South

By Robert Shackelford, Elizabeth Wolfe and Mary Gilbert, CNN

(CNN) — A powerful storm is pummeling parts of the Plains with blizzard conditions as it drops a blanket of snow from Colorado to Minnesota through Tuesday, creating deadly road conditions and threatening widespread power outages. The wide-reaching storm will also fire up severe thunderstorms and tornadoes in classic springtime fashion.

The storm is the latest in a series that have blurred the transition from winter to spring. Some cities, like Minneapolis St.-Paul, have received more snow in the past week than they had all winter. And parts of New England, where tens of thousands remain without power, endured a bigger snowstorm this weekend than any single storm this winter.

The latest storm brought over a foot of snow to Colorado’s highest elevations by Monday morning. Snow reports ranged from 2 to 8 inches from Kansas through the Dakotas. Dozens of locations in Minnesota and Wisconsin recorded at least 8 inches of snow; a handful had over a foot.

Continued snow will cause totals to keep climbing in parts of Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Dakotas where winter storm warnings are active into Tuesday.

Blizzard warnings extend from northern Colorado and Kansas into parts of Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota on Monday.

Travel could become “nearly impossible” in some areas as the storm moves through the Plains and Upper Midwest, creating icy roadways and whiteout conditions, the weather service warned.

Slick conditions have wreaked havoc in Minnesota, where two people have been killed in car crashes since Sunday, according to the Minnesota State Patrol. More than 400 crashes and 400 spinouts have happened statewide since Sunday, the agency said.

Freezing rain and sleet also created dangerous road conditions in parts of Nebraska Sunday night, the weather service office in North Platte said. The conditions closed a more than 100-mile portion of I-80 in the state Sunday night. The roadway remained closed Monday morning after the icy mix turned to blowing snow and created whiteout conditions.

Widespread power outages are also a concern as power lines and trees are likely to be damaged by strong winds and accumulations of heavy, wet snow, the weather service said.

Last week, a storm dumped snow from the northern Plains to the Northeast. The heaviest snow focused on the Northeast where parts of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, saw more than 2 feet of snow.

More than 90,000 homes and businesses are still without power across the region as of Monday morning, according to The majority of outages are in Maine, where more than 80,000 customers are in the dark.

Many power lines were grounded across Maine after the storm blew through, according to Central Maine Power. The utility said its crews responded to more than 700 emergency calls Sunday for issues including blocked roads and downed lines.

Though the Maine utility had restored power to nearly 60% of customers impacted by the storm as of Monday afternoon, restoration efforts in severely impacted coastal areas could last through Wednesday, it said.

Strong tornadoes possible in Gulf Coast states

The southern side of the storm will produce damaging thunderstorms in the South Monday. Warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico is providing plenty of fuel for thunderstorms to unload damaging wind gusts, hail and tornadoes.

A few of these tornadoes could become strong – meaning EF2-strength or greater – the Storm Prediction Center warned Monday.

Thunderstorms were ongoing Monday morning from Texas to Arkansas but are forecast to intensify as the storm system tracks east.

The greatest risk for severe thunderstorms and strong tornadoes will center on parts of Louisiana and Mississippi from Monday afternoon into Monday night.

Heavy rainfall could also lead to flooding in parts of the Mississippi Valley and Gulf Coast. Portions of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Missouri are under a Level 2 of 4 risk of flooding rainfall Monday.

Thunderstorms will track into the Southeast on Tuesday, but any damaging storms are expected to be isolated in nature.

CNN’s Samantha Beech and Nic F. Anderson contributed to this report.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN-Weather/Environment

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