Cleanup began in battered parts of the South and Midwest after a sprawling storm system produced ferocious winds and heavy snow that caused widespread damage and multiple deaths before racing through the Northeast on Saturday.
More than a foot of snow fell in parts of New York state, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine before the late-winter storm started to ebb late in the day. Driving conditions were hazardous, as dozens of cars, trucks and tractor-trailers slid off roads, police said. In New York’s capital region of Albany, crews worked to restore power to nearly 20,000 customers as heavy, damp snow snapped tree branches.
The storm’s death toll rose with additional fatalities reported in Indiana and Michigan, while Kentucky’s governor said at least five people died in that state as the system spawned straight-line winds, possible tornadoes and powerful thunderstorms in the South on Friday.
The system previously slammed California with as much as 10 feet (3 meters) of snow. Search crews have rescued several Californians stranded in the state’s mountain communities, and some residents in the mountains east of Los Angeles will likely remain trapped in their homes for at least another week after the snowfall proved too much to handle for most plows.
In Indiana, a state trooper was struck by a vehicle and killed Friday afternoon while assisting with traffic backups following weather-related crashes.
Master Trooper James R. Bailey, 50, was hit while deploying stop sticks on Interstate 69 near Auburn to stop a speeding vehicle fleeing Fort Wayne police, state police said. A 42-year-old Marion, Indiana, man was arrested and faces a charge of resisting law enforcement causing death to a law enforcement officer.
In Michigan, an 80-year-old man was struck and killed Friday evening by a snowplow that was backing up while clearing snow from a driveway in Ann Arbor, MLive.com reported. The snowplow driver said he didn’t know he had struck the man until a bystander got his attention, police said.
At least five deaths were reported in hard-hit Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear said Saturday. The storm, with wind gusts surpassing 70 mph, downed trees and power lines and damaged homes and other buildings.
“This is very significant, widespread damage throughout Kentucky,” Beshear said.
In central Tennessee, where the severe weather took down power lines and damaged homes, at least two deaths were blamed on the storm. In both cases, the victims were struck by falling trees, authorities told local news outlets.
About 728,000 utility customers in Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee were without power, according to PowerOutage.us. More than 330,000 of those customers were in Kentucky, and the governor warned it would take days for utility crews to fully restore service.
Kentucky’s electric cooperatives reported hundreds of snapped utility poles and thousands of power lines down across the Bluegrass State. Soft ground from heavy rains slowed the progress of heavy equipment to access damaged infrastructure.
“The damage from this event is as widespread as any natural disaster I have ever seen in Kentucky co-op history,” said Chris Perry, president and CEO of Kentucky Electric Cooperatives.
In Alabama, a 70-year-old man sitting in his truck in Talledega County was killed when a tree fell onto his vehicle. A 43-year-old man in Lauderdale County and a man in Huntsville also were killed by falling trees Friday, local authorities said. Heavy rain caused flooding in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas.
In the upper Midwest, winter-weary residents dug out Saturday from snowfall that caused widespread power outages and forced Detroit's Metropolitan Wayne County Airport to briefly close late Friday. Thousands of residents in the region already had lost power for days following recent ice storms that slammed Michigan.
Victoria Burnett felt a sense of foreboding as the snow began falling Friday in Farmington Hills, northwest of Detroit. Burnett lost power for seven days following the first ice storm. She was able to use a generator until her service returned.
“When it started snowing (Friday) and I saw it was heavy, wet snow, I was really worried,” Burnett said. Her lights flickered, but the power remained on.
Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Bobby Caina Calvan in New York City; Sarah Rankin in Richmond, Virginia; Kimberly Chandler in Montgomery, Alabama; Mark Pratt in Boston and Amy Taxin in Los Angeles.