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Thursday October 28th, 2021 3:30AM

The Latest: Cold front helped spawn North Carolina tornado

By The Associated Press
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The Latest on winter weather across the U.S. (all times local):

OCEAN ISLE BEACH, N.C. — The emergency services director in a North Carolina county that was struck by a deadly tornado says the seaside community had little notice of the dangerous weather late Monday.

Ed Conrow told reporters at a briefing Tuesday afternoon that a tornado warning wasn’t issued until the storm was already on the ground and causing damage in coastal Brunswick County.

“We’ve been talking with our partners at the National Weather Service, and they were very surprised how rapidly this storm intensified,” he said. "And at the time of night when most people are at home and in bed, it creates a very dangerous situation.”

The official said responders have completed search and rescue operations and will transition to a recovery phase. Authorities said three people died and 10 were injured during storm. Nobody remained missing Tuesday afternoon.

Aerial footage from a WRAL-TV news helicopter showed a handful of home lots covered in splintered wood and debris. Several other roofs had damage ranging from torn-off shingles to roof beams exposed where the storm tore a hole.

Gov. Roy Cooper said the state was sending aid to the area and the National Weather Service’s office in Wilmington also sent a team to survey the damage and confirm that a tornado touched down.

Mark Willis, meteorologist in charge for the Wilmington office, said the same cold front bringing freezing temperatures, ice and snow from Canada to Mexico created conditions favorable to tornadoes in North Carolina, where it pushed up against a warm front from the Gulf of Mexico.

Randy Thompson, chairman of the of the Brunswick County Board of Commissioners, said the impact on residents of the Ocean Ridge Plantation and the surrounding Ocean Isle Beach community has been devastating.

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DALLAS — At midday Central time, more than 2,700 U.S. flights had been canceled, led by more than 800 at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport and more than 700 at Bush Intercontinental.

Runways at Houston’s two major airports, Bush and Hobby, were closed until at least 4 p.m.

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OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — After implementing rolling blackouts early Tuesday amid a massive increase in electricity use combined with limited wind power and natural gas availability, Oklahoma Gas & Electric, the state’s largest electric utility, rescinded its plans for further blackouts late Tuesday morning.

“Southwest Power Pool has notified OG&E that temporary service interruptions are not required at this time,” the company said in a press release. “While temporary service interruptions are not being required at this time, the continued extreme cold weather forecasted for the region, combined with the high demand for natural gas, increases the potential for the reinstatement of these short-term service interruptions.”

The company urged its users to set thermostats at 68 degrees, avoid using major electric appliances and turn off lights or appliances they are not using.

Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co. started rolling blackouts of more than an hour around dawn for Oklahoma City and more than a dozen other communities. The blackout stopped electric-powered space heaters, furnaces and lights just as temperatures were hovering around 8 degrees below zero, some of the lowest readings in a more than weeklong stretch below freezing.

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The snow, ice and bitter cold gripping Missouri has delayed people from coronavirus vaccinations, including those who signed up for mass inoculation events that had been scheduled for this week.

The governor’s office said it was trying to reschedule the National Guard-run events, but that registrants should seek vaccinations elsewhere in the meantime. Gov. Mike Parson also said the conditions would likely delay some vaccine shipments.

The cancellations follow a storm that dumped several inches of snow in much of the state and sent temperatures plunging below zero, including in Kansas City, where it was 9 degrees below zero on Tuesday, a new record for the date.

Also Tuesday, Energy companies in western and southwest Missouri again imposed rolling electricity blackouts in an effort to reduce the strain on electrical systems during record-setting cold weather. The Southwest Power Pool lifted the order at about 10:45 a.m. and utility companies said their customers should have power returned quickly.

Evergy said its blackouts affected about 100,000 customers in western Missouri and eastern Kansas for between 30 and 90 minutes Tuesday morning. City utilities in Independence and Springfield, along with Liberty Utilities, also imposed emergency power outages before the order was lifted.

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Power outages and frigid weather are also disrupting water supplies in some Texas cities.

In the Fort Worth area, more than 200,000 residents were told to boil their water before use because of power outages at water treatment plants.

And further south, in Corpus Christi, a similar boil order was issued after a major water line broke in the city of about 325,000 people. Mayor Paulette Guarjardo said the city would distribute bottled water to people who could not boil water because of power outages.

“It’s an unbelievable time of what’s happening to us but it is what it is,” she said, adding that the city would use all resources available to respond to the situation.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said in its Tuesday daily operations briefing that Texas officials have also requested 60 generators from the agency and the priority for their use will be hospitals and nursing homes.

The extreme cold is increasing energy demand at the same time the storm has reduced energy generation. FEMA officials said the lower energy output is due to a variety of factors, including icing on wind turbines and heavy cloud coverage that has reduced solar power generation.

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The National Weather Service says that the temperature at Memphis International Airport hit 3 degrees Tuesday morning, the coldest temperature observed there since 1989. The reading came after neighborhoods and suburbs saw 3 ½ to 4 inches of snowfall Monday.

Wind chills hit the single digits below zero overnight and are expected to remain near or below zero throughout Tuesday as layers of snow and ice covered roads and highways in Memphis and throughout west Tennessee.

The Memphis Area Transit Authority said it has stopped running buses and other transportation vehicles on Tuesday due to the road conditions, with exceptions being transportation for dialysis patients and anyone traveling to a warming center.

The Shelby County Health Department also suspended COVID-19 vaccinations for Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the county's fire department reported that a 10-year-old boy died after falling into an ice pond Sunday.

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OMAHA, Neb. — A second day of Arctic temperatures across Middle America on Tuesday prompted rolling power outages in Nebraska and a call to cut energy use in Iowa.

Residents in Nebraska experienced some of the coldest weather on record early Tuesday, putting a strain on the power grid that saw the state’s power utilities implementing rolling outages. In Omaha, the temperature bottomed out at 23 below zero overnight — the coldest in 25 years.

Omaha Public Power District, which serves multiple counties around Omaha, reported around 30,000 customers without power in areas mostly south of Dodge Street, which bisects the city. The Lincoln Electric System reported nearly 15,000 customers without power for a time Tuesday morning as temperatures there dropped to a record low of 31 below, smashing the previous record of 18 below set in 1978.

In Iowa, overnight lows dipped to nearly 30 below zero around Sioux City and wind chills to around 40 below in some places, leading some local power utilities in the state’s northern counties to issue some rolling outages. The extreme cold led MidAmerican Energy to issue a plea for residents to dial back power use, and some 150 schools announced delays or closures Tuesday.

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PIERRE, S.D. — Nearly 11,000 electric customers in South Dakota were without power on Tuesday, according to poweroutage.us, a website that tracks utility outage reports.

East River Electric Power Cooperative, which is part of the Southwest Power Pool, said it was expecting rolling blackouts for its customers, lasting up to an hour. Customers in Viborg, Hurley, Menno, Sioux Falls and western Minnesota were impacted.

Rolling blackouts of up to 30 minutes were also planned for Tuesday morning in the northwestern Minnesota city of Moorhead, where the temperature was negative 8 degrees on Tuesday morning. The area was also under a wind chill advisory, with wind chills expected to reach 25 to 40 degrees below zero.

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CHICAGO — A winter storm has blanketed parts of the Chicago area with up to a foot and a half of snow, shuttering schools to in-person classes Tuesday as officials urged residents to stay off the snow-filled roads.

The National Weather Service reported that 18 inches of snow had fallen in Evanston by 8 a.m. Tuesday, while Midway International Airport had 17.7 inches and O’Hare International airport reported 7.5 inches.

Illinois State Police and the state Department of Transportation urged residents to stay at home Tuesday while crews clear roadways.

The heavy snowfall prompted schools to cancel classes across the region, including Chicago Public Schools, which reverted to online learning for Tuesday, while federal and local courts canceled in-person hearings.

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — About 100 school systems closed, delayed opening or switched to remote classes on Tuesday in Alabama because of slippery roads or frigid temperatures, and highways were dappled with ice and snow in cities including Birmingham and Huntsville.

Transportation Department cameras showed traffic was relatively light after hours of warnings about hazardous conditions, but conditions might not improve for a day since temperatures weren’t predicted to go above freezing in some areas before Wednesday afternoon.

About 8,400 homes and businesses were without power, mostly in a cluster of rural counties near the Mississippi state line where icing began on Monday.

In rural northwestern Alabama, the town of Haleyville was mostly shut down because of ice that began coating trees and roads Monday. Wrecker service owner Ben Lyle said Tuesday that many of the small manufacturing plants and other businesses that fuel the area’s economy were closed, some because of power outages.

Lyle said he’d been busy rescuing stranded motorists and truckers from slippery roads, but only a few people were even trying to drive around the town of 4,100 people.

“I don’t look for the situation to improve before tomorrow,” Lyle said. “We’ve got the ice. If it was just snow it wouldn’t be that bad.”

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DAMASCUS, Ga. — The National Weather Service in Tallahassee, Florida, says a tornado struck the small town of Damascus in the southwest corner of Georgia on Monday.

No deaths have been reported. A survey team planned to visit the site and determine the twister’s intensity.

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Thousands of people in eastern Kentucky and West Virginia were without power Tuesday morning after a winter storm left much of the area coated in ice.

Utility tracking website poweroutage.us showed that there were nearly 150,000 power outages reported in Kentucky and over 100,000 outages in West Virginia.

The National Weather Service said an ice warning remained in effect for much of the area through Tuesday afternoon. The weather service said plunging temperatures, heavy ice and increased winds will likely result in more downed trees and power lines and dangerous road conditions.

In Kentucky, officials reported three additional storm-related deaths. Kentucky State Police said two people died Sunday when their vehicle slid off the road due to icy conditions and overturned in a waterway in Trimble County. Another person died on Monday in a crash in Marshall County that police say was caused by a roadway covered in snow and ice.

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Icy conditions left several thousand customers without power Tuesday morning in New York’s Hudson Valley. Up to ten inches of snow fell in parts of western New York, slowing commutes and forcing some COVID-19 vaccination sites in the Rochester area to temporarily close down.

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