Storm Sweeps Plains, Heads East

Maria Camacho, left, Kelly Sands and Sharon Warner, right, wait to cross Broad Street in Rochester, N.Y., on their way to work Friday morning, Feb. 17, 2006, against high winds that blew through the area. (AP Photo/Democrat and Chronicle, Max Schulte)
AP
A National Weather Service forecaster says for meteorologists it's a great system to watch. For others, a fierce blast of winter is not so terrific.

A winter storm system swept across the Midwest and into the Northeast on Friday, ripping the roof off an Indiana church, pelting Arkansas with hail and cutting power to thousands in Michigan.

In western New York, winds gusting up to 60 mph early Friday led several schools to close from Buffalo to Rochester and south to the Finger Lakes region, partly out of concern for safety and in anticipation of power outages. One person died when a tree fell and crushed a passing car, and another was killed after a tree crashed onto his pickup truck.

Arkansas was bracing for a possible ice storm Friday after quarter-sized hail fell on the northwest part of the state, said Newton Skiles of the National Weather Service.

Stephanie Mayo, 33, stocked up on supplies at Harvest Foods in Little Rock, Ark.

"I'm buying a week's worth of food," she said.

In Indiana, an apparent tornado on Thursday blew the roof off a church in Terre Haute, and the roof on an Ivy Tech State College building partially collapsed. Another suspected tornado damaged nearly a dozen homes in Vincennes, about 100 miles southwest of Indianapolis, authorities said.

Temperatures dropped below zero in Minneapolis, where pedestrians told reporter Bruce Hagevik of CBS radio station WCCO-AM (audio) everything from "I'd really like to be some place warmer" to "It's no big deal. We live in Minnesota. We're tough. We can hack it."

In Michigan, about 100,000 customers were still without power Friday after 60-mph winds blew through the Lower Peninsula. Some homes and businesses were expected to remain blacked out until Sunday.

The cold front came on the heels of much warmer weather.

Temperatures in Arkansas, where Fort Smith reached 79 degrees on Thursday, were expected to be in the 20s and 30s Friday. Indianapolis residents woke up to 23-degree weather.

In Rochester, N.Y., the temperature plunged from 60 degrees to the 30s in a few hours overnight. Rochester Gas and Electric Corp. officials said 1,000 customers were already without power by dawn.

Parts of Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska had been hit by the strong winds and, in their case, heavy snow, on Wednesday and Thursday.

As the cold front moved through Wisconsin on Thursday, the state got a mix of rain, sleet, snow, lightning, thunder and high winds gusting 50 mph. Scores of motorists ended up in ditches, and Green Bay had over a foot of snow.

"It was a great system," said Steve Davis of the National Weather Service in Sullivan. "For meteorologists, these are extremely interesting."

The cold weather was headed toward the Northeast, which was enjoying balmy weather after last weekend's record snow. CBS News Meteorologist George Cullen says the change in temperature will be sudden.

"Temperatures will drop from the 50s to the 20s within an hour or two," said Cullen.