A huge storm spread snow and ice from Texas and Louisiana to Michigan yesterday, causing scores of traffic accidents that left at least nine dead, while temperatures in the upper Midwest plunged as low as 37 degrees below zero.
"Sure was a short spring," said Eric Sandin in Shreveport, La., where light snow fell and the temperature dropped 33 degrees overnight to a low of 27. "I'm from Minnesota, and it's just like being at home."
Snow also fell from northern Texas across parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Illinois, Indiana, lower Michigan and Ohio.
The National Weather Service said snow and rain were forecast today along the East Coast from North Carolina into New England, where it was predicted to complicate weekend campaigning for New Hampshire's presidential primary Tuesday.
Snow depths ranged up to 7 inches by noon at Fort Wayne, Ind., with 9.4 inches in northeastern Illinois at Antioch. More than a foot of snow fell overnight at a ski resort near Lisle, Ill., west of Chicago. Wichita Falls, Tex., got 3 inches of snow in four hours, but drifts were as high as a foot, the weather service reported.
Major airlines reduced their schedules at Chicago's O'Hare airport because of the weather. A Continental Airlines DC9 slid 20 feet past the end of a runway after landing during Wednesday's snowfall there. No injuries were reported.
Temperatures were below zero on the northern Plains and upper Mississippi Valley. Record lows included 35 below zero at Bismarck, N.D., and at Aberdeen, S.D.; 31 below at Duluth, Minn.; and 35 below at International Falls, Minn. The coldest was 37 below zero at Bemidji, Minn.
As far south as northwestern Arkansas, overnight temperatures were in the single digits and lows along the Kansas-Oklahoma border were near zero, the weather service said.
In San Angelo, Tex., the temperature plunged from 72 degrees Wednesday to 25 degrees at midnight. Wichita Falls, Tex., posted a record low of 7 degrees.
On the other hand, the Southwest was in the middle of a heat wave that had temperatures as high as 92 in southern California.
A combination of snow, sleet and freezing rain made streets and roads treacherous across parts of the Plains, causing scores of traffic accidents.
"Everything in this area is very icy and hazardous," Arkansas state police spokeswoman Diane Carter said in Little Rock.
Bad weather was cited in nine traffic deaths: five in Arkansas, three in Indiana and one in Kentucky.
In Texas, a woman and three children were hospitalized after their car spun off an icy road and flipped into Lake Ray Hubbard, northeast of Dallas, officials said. One of the children, a 4-year-old, was in the water for 10 minutes before rescuers pulled him out, said Sue Mitchell of the Dallas County Sheriff's Office.
Schools were closed in parts of northern Texas and Arkansas.
At Hot Springs, Ark., the Oaklawn Park thoroughbred horse-racing track canceled its program because of slippery streets and highways in the area.
High wind blowing over Texas knocked out power to Rockwall, a suburban Dallas community of 6,000, during the night, said Jerome Davis, a spokesman for Texas Utilities. He said most areas were restored in a few hours.
As of Wednesday, street crews in Chicago had used 125,000 tons of salt this winter, spokeswoman Kirsten Svare said. The city used 88,000 tons during all of last year's milder winter, she said.
Despite the snow and cold, water receded along the Fox River west of Chicago, which was declared a state disaster area earlier in the week because of flooding caused by ice jams. About 50 families remained evacuated, officials said.
In California, the temperature hit a record 92 degrees Wednesday at San Juan Capistrano, and San Francisco had a record 78. Other records included 88 in Los Angeles, 74 in Sacramento and 81 in San Diego.