Snowstorm pounds much of midwest

Joedy Mccreary and Joedy Mccreary

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Streams overflowed across West Virginia yesterday following a week of heavy rain and snow that swamped much of the northeast quarter of the country. High wind and fog caused havoc elsewhere, blowing skydivers off course, closing roads and interfering with efforts to clear the wreckage of a collapsed toy store roof.

About 40 houses in Charleston, W.Va., were evacuated early yesterday because of street flooding, said Mark Wolford, the city’s emergency services director.

“We’re being tested on all sides because of the weather that’s going through,” Wolford said. “It’s just creating a more dangerous situation as the emergency responders are trying to get to people.”

Minor flooding was reported throughout West Virginia and the National Weather Service warned of 50 mph wind at higher elevations with up to four inches of snow possible in places.

Six deaths were blamed on the weather Saturday. Two died as wind overturned mobile homes and toppled trees in eastern Kentucky. One man died in a West Virginia plane crash linked to wind, and three people died on slippery roads in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana.

On Sunday, three Army skydivers entertaining race fans at the North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham were injured when 40 mph wind gusts blew them off target. Two hit parked vehicles, and a third had a hard landing on the asphalt track. All were being treated at hospitals.

The weight of Saturday’s rain and heavy snow from the Presidents Day storm were blamed for roof collapses Saturday in Maryland, Delaware and Virginia. Nine people, including a 3-year-old, suffered minor injuries when the roof of a Toys ‘R’ Us store in Lanham, Md., caved in.

Fire officials were optimistic that everyone got out of the Toys ‘R’ Us store. Wind expected to gust up to 60 mph yesterday prevented the use of a large crane to search the debris, said Prince George’s County Fire Department spokesman Mark Brady.

Dense fog yesterday reduced visibility to near zero in parts of Maryland and New Jersey, obscuring highways and shutting down the entire 148-mile-long New Jersey Turnpike for nearly three hours. Two buses and 10 cars piled up in a chain-reaction crash on the turnpike near Secaucus but no serious injuries were reported.

In southern Ohio, ice, snow and wind delayed crews restoring electricity to homes and businesses blacked out since last weekend’s storm, and American Electric Power said more than 10,000 customers still had no power Sunday.

Rivers in central Virginia ran near flood stage yesterday but only minor flooding was expected. Southwest Virginia had flooding Saturday, with tiny Mason’s Creek near Roanoke snapping oak trees and spilling into a residential area. Residents of one subdivision in Augusta County were cut off because their bridge washed out Saturday.

Farther north, freezing rain coated parts of western New York state with ice yesterday, sending dozens of vehicles sliding off roads. Seven flights out of Buffalo Niagara International Airport were canceled because of the weather.