Deadly Blizzard Pummels Midwest, Brings Hurricane-Force Winds

PHOTO: Amarillo, Texas, emergency personnel assist a stranded motorist on the I-40 service road, Feb. 25, 2013.

A deadly blizzard is burying much of the Midwest, closing highways, knocking out power to thousands and packing hurricane-force winds to an area that was socked by a ferocious storm last week.

The blizzard, which dumped more than 19 inches on Amarillo, Texas, and brought 75 mph wind gusts, made its way east overnight to Kansas. More than 5 inches have fallen in Wichita and forecasters said that 8 to 14 inches of snow could fall before the system moves through the state by late afternoon.

Kansas was still digging out from last week's storm that dumped more than foot of snow on parts of the state.

More than 15 inches were forecast for parts of western Missouri, with a foot or more in Kansas City alone.

Two deaths are being blamed on the blizzard conditions, while three other deaths are being attributed to strong wind gusts produced by the storm system.

The violent winds fueled a devastating fire in San Antonio, Texas, that burned one mobile home Monday afternoon, killing a mother and her twin toddlers.

"I came outside and looked across the street and the house was on fire," neighbor Enrique Pena said.

The cause of the fire remained under investigation, according to ABC News affiliate KSAT-TV.

In northwest Kansas, a 21-year-old man's SUV hit an icy patch on Interstate 70 and overturned, killing him, The Associated Press reported. And in the northwest town of Woodward, Okla., heavy snow caused a roof to collapse, killing one inside the home, according to the AP.

The storm will lose intensity as it moves northeast, bringing a swath of snow across Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan, the National Weather Service reported. Chicago will get slammed with 3 to 6 inches of snow later today.

By the time this storm system hits the East Coast later in the week, it will be mostly rain with parts of upstate New York and New Hampshire seeing 3 to 6 inches of snow.

Earlier Monday, 20 states from Texas to Michigan were under storm watches and warnings.

Texas has called in the National Guard to respond to motorist stranded on highways. In neighboring Oklahoma, Bill Thompson, his wife, daughter and two granddaughters were stranded on Highway 83 for over three hours as they attempted to drive to Texas Monday.

"It was kind of slippery but it was okay and we went over the bridge and all of the snow went real high and we got stuck and we're right in the middle of the freeway," Thompson said.

Amarillo was one of the hardest hit cities in Texas and the 19 inches of snow that fell Monday was the most snow in a single day for February. El Paso registered the highest wind gust at 84 mph.

In Oklahoma, 15 inches of snow fell in Woodward as winds gusted to 69 mph, which caused whiteout conditions that halted travel.

Roads from southeastern Kansas into the Oklahoma Panhandle slowly began to reopen Monday night. Parts of some highways remain closed because of blowing and drifting snow.

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback said their ditches are still full from last week's winter storm.

"You can't throw it off as quick or as easy so this one could be much more treacherous to travel in," Brownback said Monday.

While the much-needed precipitation does help parts of the Midwest recover from the drought, the overwhelming snow totals and blizzard conditions are a lot to handle for some.

"We've had a nice winter so far. And now, boy, in the last two weeks here, it's like gee," Elton Horne of Williamsburg, Kan., said.

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