By Brad Brooks
(Reuters) – Brutal winter weather enveloped much of the U.S. on Tuesday and was forecast to continue through the week in areas, with forecasters predicting heavy rains in the east and several feet of snow for parts of the Pacific northwest.
High winds and a few tornadoes ripped through parts of the South earlier Tuesday, with at least three deaths attributed to weather in Alabama, North Carolina and Georgia, according to authorities and local media reports. Tornadoes caused heavy damage in parts of the Florida panhandle.
Heavy rains and high winds hit a big chunk of the East Coast on Tuesday and will continue into Wednesday, the National Weather Service (NWS) said. Three or more inches of rain was forecast for a wide swath of the northeast, where some areas were hit with heavy snows last weekend, increasing the risk of significant flooding.
The extreme weather follows a record number of “billion-dollar” disasters in the U.S. last year.
Storms had knocked out power to over 418,000 homes and businesses in 12 states on Tuesday.
Snow will continue on Wednesday in the Midwest and Great Lakes region, large portions of which saw blizzard conditions Monday and Tuesday. The snow is being produced on the northern and western edges of the storm enveloping the East Coast, the NWS said. Up to 8 inches of snow and high winds were expected.
“This snow will cling to trees and power lines, which when
combined with gusty winds potentially exceeding 55 mph, could result in power outages,” the NWS said.
Forecasters said that conditions for the Midwest and East Coast will gradually improve Wednesday as the storm system moves out.
In the Pacific northwest, a separate storm system is producing blizzard conditions that will continue into Wednesday, producing several feet of snow at higher elevations in the Cascade mountains in Washington and Oregon, the NWS said.
That storm system will strengthen as it roars over the Rockies and onto the central plains by Thursday.
(Reporting by Brad Brooks in Longmont, Colorado. Editing by Donna Bryson and Michael Perry)