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Dangerous storms threaten tornadoes, flooding and crippling ice in country's eastern half

Posted at 11:26 AM, Jan 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-11 21:38:50-05

(CNN) -- An already deadly line of powerful storms is bearing down on the eastern half of the United States, threatening dangerous winds and tornadoes in the South and potentially crippling snow and ice in the Midwest through the weekend, with heavy rain and flooding in between.

At least three people died in Louisiana from Friday night into Saturday morning as a result of severe storms, authorities said

And hundreds of flights have been canceled or delayed at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on Saturday, as the city faced wintry precipitation and strong winds.

The storms will primarily hit the Southeast, Midwest and eventually the Northeast from now into early next week.

Here's how regions are being affected:

Track the storms here

Dangerous storms and tornadoes in the South and parts of the Midwest

Across the central US and the South, severe storms are marching east, impacting the entire Mississippi River and Ohio River Valleys.

Tornadoes were reported Friday and Saturday in Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas, and more are possible Saturday throughout the Southeast.

Heavy rain and strong winds were pounding parts of the South on Saturday morning, downing power lines along the way. About 250,000 homes and businesses were without power in seven states -- Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky and Illinois -- by 11:30 a.m. ET, according to the online project

The storms have killed at least three people in northwestern Louisiana:

• In Bossier Parish, a severe storm demolished a home, and an elderly couple were found dead nearby, authorities said.

• In Oil City, a tree fell on a home, killing a man, Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator said.

Downed trees and power lines littered some Louisiana roadways. Parts of Interstate 20 were closed near Minden on Saturday morning, and state police asked motorists to avoid the area if possible.

Storms demolished a couple homes Friday around the southwestern Missouri community of Fair Play, about a 140-mile drive south of Kansas City, CNN affiliate KOLR reported. A possible tornado was reported in the area, the National Weather Service said.

Flood warnings and watches were in effect in many states the long line of storms is hitting Saturday.

Strong, damaging winds are expected Saturday across the South -- even well in advance of the storms. Some storms also could produce large hail.

"Everyone should be on high alert, as this type of system is rare for January," CNN meteorologist Taylor Ward said. "A system of this magnitude is more common in the spring, when we typically see dangerous tornado outbreaks."

In the North: Crippling snow and ice, and strong winds

Winter weather advisories have been issued in areas from Kansas to Michigan, with severe ice and snow in the forecast.

Snow, sleet and freezing rain are expected in parts of Oklahoma, eastern Kansas, Missouri, northern Illinois, eastern Iowa, southern Wisconsin and much of Michigan.

In Chicago, strong winds -- including gusts over 50 mph -- accompanied light snow and rain Saturday morning. More than 900 flights to or from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport were canceled Saturday, and more than 150 others were delayed, according to tracking website

Sleet, freezing rain and snow are expected around the city throughout the day. Winds were building up large waves on Lake Michigan, threatening lakeshore flooding in the Chicago area, the National Weather Service said.

In Michigan, some areas could see up to three-quarters of an inch of ice. Other areas could see anywhere from a light glaze to a half inch of ice.

"Ice storms can be extremely dangerous," CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said. The amount of ice forecast for Michigan could bring down trees and power lines, which could cause widespread power outages.

"Power could be out for days, with temperatures below freezing," he said. "Ice storms can cause deadly travel conditions, worse than even a foot of snow. Four-wheel drive vehicles and trucks are no match for the kind of ice that is forecast."

A foot of snow could fall in Des Moines through Sunday, with at least 8 inches of snow in southern Wisconsin and northern Michigan.


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