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After A Wild Weekend, More Severe Weather Hits Parts Of U.S.


Wild weather continued across the country today. There are blizzards in Texas, deadly flooding in Missouri, tornadoes in Florida and heavy snow in the Great Lakes region. Thousands of people are trying to dig out, clean up and dry off. Lauren Silverman of member station KERA in Dallas looks at the violent weather systems across the country.

LAUREN SILVERMAN, BYLINE: Not one but nine tornadoes roared through Texas this past weekend. The deadliest in Garland yanked roofs from homes and left two-by-fours scattered like driftwood in the mud. This morning, Catherine Noble was in the cafeteria at a high school, rifling through donations in cardboard boxes.

CATHERINE NOBLE: My son's room, it collapsed, and our room got sucked out. You know how they usually say it sounds like a train? No. No, it sounded like a jet. It sounded like a jet hitting my apartment.

SILVERMAN: That tornado had winds above 175 miles an hour. At least 11 people died in North Texas during the storms. Eight were in vehicles on a highway near Dallas. And while the roads are mostly safe now, an icy Interstate 40 was closed for hours up north in the Texas Panhandle. Lubbock has tallied 11 inches of snow, the most since 1983.

JOE EDD WAGGONER: Goodness, I don't think that we've had snowfall like this in years.

SILVERMAN: That's Lubbock resident Joe Edd Waggoner. Low visibility and icy conditions prompted the mayor to issue a weeklong disaster declaration. The vigorous storms may have spent Christmas in the Lone Star State, but meteorologist Rich Otto with the National Weather Service says the misery has spread.

RICH OTTO: Currently, the system is moving into Missouri with a good band of light to moderate snow moving across parts of the Midwest and into Chicago.

SILVERMAN: Ten people have died in flash flooding in Missouri. The governor has declared a state of emergency there as the Mississippi River keeps rising. Along the river, residents in historic Saint Genevieve, Mo., remember the great flood of 1993. It filled downtown with water 15 feet high. Federal levees were built later for a river crest of 50 feet. It's predicted to get very close to that by Thursday.

SANDRA CABOT: As of yesterday, they were predicting 49.8, now it's 49.9. Usually it will go down, but we keep getting more rain.

SILVERMAN: Sandra Cabot is Sainte Genevieve's tourism director and handles emergency communication. She says trucks with sandbags are on their way to bolster the levee. Officials want people in the floodplain to pack valuables, move things upstairs and prepare to go. Kara Burt runs a shop called Simple to Sassy. She remembers the '93 flood.

KARA BURT: We seem sandbagged a lot, we - day and night, and had wheelbarrows, and just making walls and praying a lot.

SILVERMAN: Floods in the Midwest, tornadoes in Texas, blizzards in Oklahoma and New Mexico. The wild weather might make you wonder - is this El Niño? Meteorologist Rich Otto says yes, but it's not the only troublemaker.

OTTO: There's a lot of factors that come into play with any given storm. And you can probably attribute this storm to a combination of just the way that the pattern, the weather pattern is set up, the orientation of the jet stream and El Niño kind of playing a role in how the upper pattern is kind of set up to generate this storm system.

SILVERMAN: Otto says while the unusually warm weather of a few days ago might have made it easy to visit family for the holidays, getting back home could be difficult. For NPR News, I'm Lauren Silverman in Dallas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lauren Silverman is the Health, Science & Technology reporter/blogger at KERA News. She is also the primary backup host for KERA’s Think and the statewide newsmagazine Texas Standard. In 2016, Lauren was recognized as Texas Health Journalist of the Year by the Texas Medical Association. She was part of the Peabody Award-winning team that covered Ebola for NPR in 2014. She also hosted "Surviving Ebola," a special that won Best Long Documentary honors from the Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). And she's won a number of regional awards, including an honorable mention for Edward R. Murrow award (for her project “The Broken Hip”), as well as the Texas Veterans Commission’s Excellence in Media Awards in the radio category.

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