Storm drops mix from Kansas to Carolinas

Monday, January 26, 2004

Winter storms dumped freezing rain, sleet and snow from the Plains to the East Coast on Sunday, making traveling treacherous along ice-slicked roads.

At least 14 people died in weather-related car wrecks: four in North Carolina, six in Missouri, two in Nebraska, one in Kansas and one in West Virginia. Dozens of airline flights were delayed or canceled from Missouri to South Carolina, and sporadic power outages were reported.

Nevertheless, the National Weather Service said a massive, icy storm bound for the Northeast packed less of a punch than had been expected -- and was far less crippling than those in January 2002 storm that caused millions of dollars in damage.

In Ohio, 14 people had to be rescued from Lake Erie by helicopter and airboat after high winds cracked the ice they were fishing on, separating them from Catawba Island, authorities said. No one was hurt or fell in the water.

North Carolina's Gov. Mike Easley declared a state of emergency as the storm moved East. In the 2002 ice storm, 1.8 million North Carolina utility customers were in the dark for up to a week.

"It's far worse than just having snow, because that crust is going to be slippery," said Susan Yeaman of the weather service in Raleigh, N.C. "It's going to keep things slippery and crusty until into" Monday.

The storm moved into Kansas around midnight Saturday, and icy conditions played a role in a number of accidents, including a fatal crash early on a highway near Hays, Kan., that killed a 42-year-old Aurora, Colo., man.

A 15-year-old eastern Missouri boy died and a 16-year-old was seriously injured when their sled crossed into the path of a pickup truck Sunday morning in Jefferson County, the Missouri State Highway Patrol said.

The weather and alcohol played roles in an accident that killed two women and a man -- all in their 20s -- near Waverly, Mo., the patrol said, and two people were killed when their car overturned after going out of control on an ice-covered roadway.

A 24-year-old woman was killed near Mossy, W.Va., after a tractor-trailer jackknifed and dumped a load of steel atop the car in which she was a passenger, a state trooper said.

Authorities in Nebraska blamed freezing rain and snow from a separate storm system over the Northern Plains for two fatal wrecks, one on Interstate 80 near Gothenburg and another in Omaha. In North Dakota, the storm closed Interstate 29 from Grand Forks to Fargo.

In the Kansas City area, about 30 vehicles were stranded briefly overnight on an ice-covered Interstate 70 bridge spanning the Kansas-Missouri state line.

In North Carolina, freezing drizzle Sunday afternoon coated an earlier covering of snow. Troopers responded to 2,000 traffic accidents by mid-afternoon, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Crime Control and Public Safety said.

A 24-year-old woman and a 78-year-old man were killed in Charlotte when the car in which they were riding lost control and plowed into a truck parked on the shoulder of an interstate, police said. In Lumberton, two women were killed in a head-on crash on an icy two-lane road, the Highway Patrol reported.

As snow, sleet and freezing rain coated South Carolina roadways, Janet McDonald of Greenville ventured out to get gasoline.

"It surprised me. I didn't think it was going to be this bad. I just want to make it home and get warm," she said.

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