Friday fury: Two blizzards blast Midwest, Southwest; 50 million face flood threat in East

Doyle Rice

The USA's weather isn't going quietly into the new year, thanks to a pair of blizzards and a widespread flood threat.

One snowstorm brought blizzard conditions to portions of the northern Plains and Upper Midwest and a second continues to dump heavy snow from Arizona to the Texas Panhandle. At least three people have died in car crashes due to the central U.S. storm.

Meanwhile, drenching rain on the waterlogged southern and eastern United States has prompted flood watches and warnings that are affecting 50 million people. The pounding rain has swept away cars and led to dozens of water rescues.

Along the nation's northern tier, the National Weather Service forecast more snow from central Minnesota to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and also northern New England on Friday. 

Though blizzard warnings had been lifted in the Midwest, winter storm warnings and watches remained in effect in Minnesota and Michigan. So far, McGregor, Minnesota, reported 19.2 inches of snow, the highest total so far, according to the weather service.

In the Northeast Friday. a wintry mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain created dangerous driving conditions in parts of upstate New York into Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and northern and central Massachusetts, the Weather Channel reported. Up to 4 inches of snow was possible in some areas, bad news for drivers but good news for snow-starved ski areas. 

Although the Weather Channel has named the storm Winter Storm Eboni, no other private weather group, or the federal government, uses that name.

The second winter storm, hitting parts of the Southwest, is expected to continue through Saturday afternoon. Snowfall is forecast to spread from southern Colorado through eastern Arizona, New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle.

The heaviest snowfall is likely in central and eastern New Mexico, with up to 2 feet in the highest terrain. The weather service said strong winds will accompany the snowfall, prompting blizzard warnings in central New Mexico, which includes the Albuquerque metro area. 

Temperatures were forecast to plunge as the storm moves across the area. Actual temperatures will fall into the 20s, teens and single digits in some areas. Because of the wind, the temperatures will feel like below zero, AccuWeather said.

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Drenching rain and flooding – not snow – were the threats in the southeastern and eastern U.S. Friday.

As of Friday afternoon, almost 50 million people were under flood watches, warnings and advisories. The weather service said that widespread rainfall, heavy at times, will continue to spread north and eastward from the Lower Mississippi Valley and Southeast into the Mid-Atlantic. Flooding and flash flooding will be a threat throughout Friday.

Drenching rain soaked the Southeast on Thursday. Portions of Mississippi picked up nearly a foot of rain, leading to flash floods. There were numerous reports of homes and businesses taking on water, road closures, river flooding, stalled vehicles and water rescues from southeastern Louisiana to western Alabama, AccuWeather said.

“We had an extreme flash flooding event,” said Glen Moore, the emergency management director in Forrest County, in southwestern Mississippi, which saw 9 inches fall over 12 hours through early Friday.

The severe weather turned deadly late Wednesday in Louisiana, where a woman was killed when a tree fell through her camper in the town of Ponchatoula.

Another death was reported near Chattanooga, Tennessee, on Friday, where a woman fell into a rain-swollen creek.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Friday fury: Two blizzards blast Midwest, Southwest; 50 million face flood threat in East