Deadly storms now threaten East Coast with heavy spring snowfall

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for several states in New England, where 7 to 18 inches of snow were expected.
Posted at 7:20 AM, Apr 03, 2024

A major spring storm was expected to drop more than a foot of snow in parts of New England on Wednesday night, while heavy rains soaked the East Coast and cleanup work continued in several states wracked by tornadoes and other severe weather blamed for at least two deaths.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for several states in New England, where 7 to 18 inches of snow were expected with some local amounts topping 24 inches at higher elevations. Parts of New Hampshire and Maine were expected to see the highest amounts.

A mix of rain and snow was falling throughout the region by early evening and was expected through Thursday night in many areas.

“It is now a rain/snow mix at the office, and we have received our first trace of snow for the storm ahead,” the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine, said Wednesday night via X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. “It won’t be long before our ground turns white!”

Maine officials warned the storm was expected to cause difficult travel conditions, power outages and minor coastal flooding.

“Travel is discouraged during this storm due to unfavorable driving conditions,” Pete Rogers, director of the Maine Emergency Management Agency, said in a statement. “Folks need to be prepared at home for the possibility of an extended power outage with emergency supplies, alternate power sources, and should charge their mobile devices in advance.”

In New Hampshire, the U.S. Forest Service issued an avalanche watch through Friday afternoon for parts of the White Mountains including Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast at 6,288 feet. The service warned backcountry hikers and skiers of the possibility that 30 inches of snow or more could fall in higher elevations and create dangerous avalanche conditions.

School districts and government offices throughout both states announced Thursday closures because of the storm.

Coastal flood warnings and watches were in effect in many areas stretching from Maine to Long Island, N.Y., while wind gusts of up to 60 mph (about 97 kph) were expected in eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island and coastal Connecticut. Heavy rains and severe thunderstorms were also expected to impact the Mid-Atlantic states and Florida.

Forecasters said heavy, wet snow would persist across Wisconsin and Upper Michigan into Thursday, with 6 to 10 inches overall possible in far-northern Wisconsin and 2 to 4 inches in Madison, but just a trace in Milwaukee. Meanwhile, residents in some of Michigan's Upper Peninsula had already seen several inches of snow, with overall accumulations of 2 feet or more expected.

The severe weather comes a day after thousands of homes and businesses were left without power after strong storms roared through several states across the nation.

Storms in northeastern Oklahoma on Tuesday unleashed three suspected tornadoes and dumped heavy rain that was blamed for the death of a 46-year-old homeless woman in Tulsa who was sheltering inside a drainage pipe.

In Kentucky, storms that spawned at least five tornadoes led to one death and widespread damage in several counties, Gov. Andy Beshear said Wednesday afternoon.

The weather-related death came from a traffic crash in Campbell County, Beshear said. No other major injuries were reported, he said.

Tornadoes touched down in Nelson, Anderson and Jessamine counties and the city of Prospect on Tuesday, according to the weather service.

Along with the confirmed tornadoes, Beshear said surveyors were looking at damage in four other counties to determine whether tornadoes were spawned there. More than a dozen additional counties reported damage from the storms, he said.

“We will get through this, and we’ll get through it together,” he said. “So many are hurting right now, and we want you to know we will be there for you.”

In Rockdale County, Georgia, crews planned to survey damage to determine whether a tornado touched down during the overnight hours, according to the weather service.

“My living room has been impaled by a tree,” Carolyn Gillman told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Gillman said she rode out the storm in her bathroom and then heard rain coming into her house east of Atlanta.

“I just knew that that big ‘whoosh’ that I heard, that big crash I heard, was the tree coming through,” Gillman told the newspaper.

An EF-1 tornado also touched down in the northeast Tennessee town of Sunbright on Tuesday, according to the weather service.

The tornado’s path was about 2.8 miles, and it was 150 yards wide, the weather service added. The twister damaged numerous residential and commercial structures, in addition to barns and hardwood trees, in the city of about 500 people. No injuries or deaths were reported.

Sunbright Mayor Karen Melton told the Knoxville News Sentinel that she drove downtown once the tornado had passed, and she found a family there.

“We had a young mother and father holding their babies, an infant and a 4-year-old ,(when) the tornado ripped the roof of their apartment. ... It was just horrific and sad,” Melton said. “But they were safe, she had some scratches, but the babies were safe."

In West Virginia, more than 103,000 homes and businesses remained without power on Wednesday, mostly in the southern part of the state, according to Some Appalachian Power customers may not get their service back until Thursday night, the utility said.

Schools were closed in eight of West Virginia’s 55 counties Wednesday, and a state of emergency declared Tuesday by Gov. Jim Justice remained in place for several counties. Moderate flooding was forecast on the Ohio River, which was expected to crest nearly 6 feet above flood stage Thursday at Wheeling.

In Crisp County, Georgia, roads were closed as emergency workers assessed damage to multiple homes and buildings after a storm early Wednesday morning, authorities said.

Photos shared by the sheriff’s office showed large trees atop one home and power lines draped across yards and roads. Residents were advised to limit travel due to the damage and possible gas leaks.

“We’ve been in there all morning surveying the damage, trying to make sure everybody in the homes are OK,” Crisp County Sheriff Billy Hancock said via Facebook.

Crisp County is about 140 miles south of Atlanta.

Between 2 and 3 1/2 inches of rain fell in western Pennsylvania since late Monday night led to flooding, and several homeless encampments along the Three Rivers Heritage Trail in Pittsburgh were abandoned due to flood concerns.

Several counties in northeastern Ohio also saw minor to moderate flooding after three days of nearly continuous rain. Flood watches and warnings remained in effect, though conditions were expected to improve by Wednesday night.