KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - A major winter storm headed northeast into the U.S. Great Lakes on Friday and threatened New England after blanketing states from Minnesota to Ohio with blinding snow, sleet and freezing rain.
The storm dumped 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.
Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Sly James said that about 60 buses were stuck on snowbound streets on Thursday, and even tow trucks were left immobile by the storm.
“It’s still an ongoing process to get people off the roads,” he told CNN.
About 570 flights were cancelled 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 the storm would move northeast into the upper Great Lakes over the next several days.
Sleet and freezing rain was possible in the Appalachians and mid-Atlantic states, with thunderstorms expected on the storm’s southern fringe in the southeastern United States, it said.
The storm is expected to reach the East Coast this weekend, delivering heavy snow to parts of New England for a third straight weekend, from northern Connecticut to southern Maine.
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 fierce 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 because of the storm.
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. (Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)