By Svea Herbst-Bayliss
BOSTON, Feb 22 (Reuters) - New England braced on Friday for its third snowstorm in three weekends, gathering crews to ready roads and trim trees ahead of the snow, sleet and freezing rain that hit the Midwest.
The storm blanketed states from Minnesota to Ohio earlier this week, dumping more than a foot (30.5 cm) of snow in Kansas on Thursday, forcing airports to cancel hundreds of flights and stranding motorists on highways.
The storm was expected to pelt New England’s coastal areas from northern Connecticut to southern Maine with a mix of snow and rain late on Friday, said National Weather Service meteorologist John Foley. Snow was predicted for Saturday, with up to a foot (30.5 cm) possible in central Massachusetts, Foley said.
“I‘m not thrilled that we’ve got more snow coming this weekend. I’ve had enough of winter,” said John Bonnanzio, 54, group editor at Mutual Fund Investors Association outside of Boston.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino met with his “Snow Team” on Friday, as city crews prepared to trim trees to reduce the risk for downed power lines and pre-treat roadways to guard against slippery conditions.
“Boston will be ready for its third consecutive weekend storm,” Menino said in a statement. “Use common sense and stay off the roads while snowfall is heaviest tomorrow.”
For some Boston-area residents the prospect of yet another weekend snowstorm was good news.
“I‘m excited. ... I went out skiing in the streets during the last one, and I’ll do the same thing again,” said Jesse Beecher, 29, who works for a film production company.
The storm barreled eastward for the weekend after hitting the Midwest during the work week. In Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Sly James said that about 60 buses were stuck on snowbound streets on Thursday, and even tow trucks were immobilized.
“It’s still an ongoing process to get people off the roads,” he told CNN.
About 570 flights were canceled on Friday, with 127 of them at Chicago’s O‘Hare airport. Kansas City International Airport reopened after being closed on Thursday while crews cleared runways.
The National Weather Service said early in the morning that the storm, headed northeast into the upper Great Lakes, may bring sleet and freezing rain to the Appalachians and mid-Atlantic states, with thunderstorms expected on the storm’s southern fringe in the southeastern United States.
Kansas bore the brunt of the bad weather on Thursday, with up to 15 inches (38 cm) of snow in some parts of the state, according to the National Weather Service.
A 200-mile (323-km) stretch of Interstate 70 in central Kansas was closed and strewn with cars stuck in snow.
National Guard troops riding in Humvees were dispatched to look for stranded motorists along the interstate and other highways, said Sharon Watson, a spokeswoman for Kansas emergency management services.
The storm triggered severe thunderstorms from eastern Texas to Georgia.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and Kansas Governor Sam Brownback declared states of emergency because of hazardous travel and possible power outages. Brownback ordered state offices closed.
In Nebraska, a 19-year-old woman was killed in a two-car accident on Wednesday on Interstate 80 near Giltner. The Nebraska State Patrol said weather was a factor.
An 18-year-old man died in Oklahoma when his vehicle slid into a tractor-trailer on a slushy state highway, the state’s highway patrol said.
Drought-stricken farmers in the Great Plains, one of the world’s largest wheat-growing areas, welcomed the moisture brought by the storm, although experts said more rain or snow would be needed to ensure healthy crops. (Additional reporting by Kevin Murphy and Ian Simpson.; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn, Barbara Goldberg, Carol Bishopric, Gabriel Debenedetti and Leslie Adler)