System brings blizzards, threat of tornadoes

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A potent spring storm system that’s expected to persist through the weekend raked across the Midwest Friday, spawning at least one tornado in Arkansas as blizzard conditions blanketed much of the Northern Plains.

A tornado ripped through the tiny Ozark Mountain town of Mountainburg, Arkansas, injuring at least four people and causing widespread damage Friday afternoon.

The huge storm, packing enough energy to cause widespread disruption, isn’t unprecedented for April, said Jake Beitlich, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Chanhassen, Minnesota.

“We do get pretty powerful systems coming throughout the Midwest, and on the cold side we do get snow. And this one is particularly strong. So we do have a lot of moisture with it, and a lot of energy,” Beitlich said. “Over the next 24 hours cold air is going to get wrapped into this system and we’re going to see a band of heavy snow develop from southwestern Minnesota through northern Wisconsin. Also we’re going to have really strong winds, especially in western Minnesota.”

Blizzard warnings stretched from northern Kansas across most of Nebraska and South Dakota into southwestern Minnesota and northeastern Iowa, with winter storm warnings and watches covering most of the rest of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.

For the central Upper Peninsula, a winter storm watch will be in effect from tonight through late Sunday night. Heavy snow is expected, with mixed precipitation possible. Six to 9 inches or more of snow is possible.

There is potential for significant snow, sleet or ice that may impact travel.

Heavy snow already blanketed parts of western Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota by early afternoon Friday.

COMMENTS