'Snow emergency' as powerful spring storm pounds parts of U.S.

Dark clouds hover above buildings amidst tornadoes in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the U.S., April 10, 2018 in this still image obtained from a social media video. MANDATORY CREDIT. Emmet Finneran/via REUTERS
Cars are seen on a road during a tornado in Mountainburg, Arkansas, U.S., April 13, 2018 in this picture grab obtained from social media video. Picture taken April 13, 2018. JOSHUA COLEMAN/via REUTERS
Cars are seen on a road during a tornado in Mountainburg, Arkansas, U.S., April 13, 2018 in this picture grab obtained from social media video. Picture taken April 13, 2018. JOSHUA COLEMAN/via REUTERS
A tornado descends on Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the U.S., April 10, 2018 in this still image obtained from a social media video. MANDATORY CREDIT. Emmet Finneran/via REUTERS

By Brendan O'Brien

MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - A powerful spring storm pummeled the U.S. Midwest and Plains on Saturday with blizzard conditions and high winds, while tornadoes and thunderstorms menaced some of the South.

Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota were under warnings for blizzard-like conditions. The city of St. Paul, Minnesota, declared a snow emergency.

Forecasters were expecting more than a foot (30 cm) of snow in parts of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Wind gusts around Duluth, Minnesota, had exceeded 50 miles (80 km) per hour, the National Weather Service (NWS) said.

"Mother nature continues to troll us," the agency's office serving the Minneapolis/St. Paul region said on Twitter, posting a video of snow falling at a rate of 1 to 2 inches (2 to 5 cm) per hour.

As the storm pushed south into Saturday evening, authorities warned that severe thunderstorms could bring gusting winds, flooding and hail. Severe weather warnings extended from Texas to central Alabama, which was under a tornado watch.

At least one tornado packing winds up to 90 miles (145 km) per hour was reported near Jackson, Mississippi, the NWS said.

Freezing rain and ice storms were expected to move into northern New England through Monday.

National weather forecasters also cautioned that high winds were producing critical fire conditions in the Southern Plains.

On Friday, the system produced 17 reports of tornadoes in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Texas, the weather service said. Four people were injured and 160 buildings damaged in a possible tornado in northwest Arkansas, local media reported.

An overnight storm killed a 1-year-old girl when a tree fell on a recreational vehicle where she was sleeping, the sheriff's office in Bossier Parish, Louisiana, said. State Governor John Bel Edwards said in a statement that emergency responders had been activated in anticipation of severe weather.

Some 750 flights in and out of airports in Minnesota and Toronto were canceled, the website flightaware.com reported.

The airport in Rochester, Minnesota, said on Twitter it had canceled all flights until Sunday morning "due to the extreme weather conditions." Rapidly falling snow also prompted Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to suspend flight operations into Saturday evening.

About 29,000 customers in Texas and Louisiana were without power on Saturday afternoon, along with an additional 50,000 in Michigan and Wisconsin, the website Poweroutage.us reported.

(Additional reporting by Letitia Stein in Detroit; Editing by Helen Popper, Alistair Bell and Jonathan Oatis)

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