A powerful storm making its way east from California across the U.S. is causing travel chaos for millions of people returning home after Thanksgiving, with forecasters warning of intensifying snow and freezing temperatures in the Midwest.
The storm caused the death of at least one person in South Dakota, and a five-year-old boy died in Arizona after a vehicle was swept away while it attempted to cross a runoff-swollen creek amid dangerous, wintry weather.
The National Weather Service said the storm is expected to drop 6 to 12 inches of snow from the northern Plains states into Minnesota, Wisconsin and Upper Michigan.
High winds and ice are expected to make travel almost impossible in some places.
Forecasters warn that people traveling throughout the weekend should be aware of the storm’s effects, with officials in states including Arizona urging travelers to wait out the weather before attempting to travel.
A 5-year-old boy’s body was found Saturday, but two young children remained missing after a truck they were in was swept away while attempting to cross a runoff-swollen creek in the Tonto National Forest in Arizona.
Gila County sheriff’s Lt. Virgil Dodd said the boy’s body was found about 3 miles downstream and that the search continued for the other two missing children.
The Gila County Sheriff’s Office said emergency personnel and law enforcement helicopters on Friday rescued two adults and two children who also were in the military-style truck swept downstream in Tonto Creek near the small community of Tonto Basin.
Sheriff’s officials previously said a total of six people, including four children, were rescued Friday at locations along the creek.
Adverse conditions included heavy brush and slippery mud along the creek and frigid water from snowmelt, but officials said they remained hopeful.
‘That’s why we’re trying to do our very best out there today in hopes that we can get the children to safety,” said sheriff’s Lt. Virgil Dodd. ‘It’s really important that we find these kids and get them to safety.’
‘We have no information as to why they were trying to cross the creek,’ Dodd added. ‘We think everybody was in the cab at the time.
‘Searchers found the truck about 1,000 yards downstream from the crossing Friday night. There was nobody in the truck.’
Meanwhile the winter storm is expected to hit northeastern states on Sunday, bringing freezing rain and snow.
Adding to the weather woes is a powerful Nor’easter storm that is developing off the East Coast which could combine with the cold air blowing in from the West and cause the first heavy snow of the year.
The National Weather Service said in its latest forecast: ‘Freezing rain will be the initial threat for portions of Pennsylvania and New York, as well as the Central Appalachians, with ice accumulations over a tenth of an inch possible in some areas.
‘Snowfall amounts in the Northeast are currently forecast to be 4 to 8 inches from parts of New York, southern Vermont and New Hampshire, and Massachusetts through Sunday night, with more expected on Monday.’
A nor’easter gets its name for the direction of strong winds and Arctic air which blows in from the Atlantic Ocean.
The weather service issued storm warnings Friday for several states from Montana to Nebraska to Wisconsin, as heavy snowfall is expected in parts of Utah, Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming.
It added: ‘High winds are expected, and Blizzard Warnings are in effect for parts of the Northern and Central Plains.
‘Dangerous conditions will make travel almost impossible. High Wind Warnings and Wind Advisories are in effect for the Central and Southern Plains.’
Heavy snow continues to batter parts of of the Northern and Central Rockies, as blizzard warnings are in effect for eastern Wyoming into western South Dakota and northern Nebraska.
Winter Storm Warnings are in place in Utah and Colorado, and extending eastward across the northern Rocky Mountains, northern Plains and Upper Midwest states.
Winter Weather Advisories are in effect across the lower elevations of the central and northern Rockies, southeastern South Dakota to central Michigan, and portions of Pennsylvania and New York.
Winter Storm Watches are in effect for parts of Michigan and the Northeast into the northern Mid-Atlantic region.
In the South, heavy rain and thunderstorms are forecast in parts of the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys.
The weather could cause problems for millions of passengers heading home after the Thanksgiving break on Sunday.
Airlines for America, the airline industry’s trade group, expects 31.6 million passengers during what could be the busiest day ever recorded for American air travel.
Hospitals in South Dakota prepared to care for patients if the storm causes power outages.
The South Dakota Highway Patrol reported one fatal accident on an icy road and posted photos on social media of cars that had careened off roads. Travelers are being asked to stay off the roads.
A 37-year-old passenger died after his truck slid into a ditch at the side of an ice-covered road and rolled.
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Leah McDonald