- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 28, 2009

BILOXI, MISS. (AP) - A spring storm dumped heavy rains, baseball-sized hail and whipped up winds across the Southeast on Saturday, flooding homes and cars in parts of Mississippi and Alabama.

The system also hit the central part of the country with snow, prompting blizzard warnings and a disaster declaration in Kansas and was blamed for two traffic deaths in Oklahoma.

About 100 roads in southern Mississippi were impassable at the height of the bad weather because of the flooding, including the main route into Biloxi, Harrison County Emergency Management Director Rupert Lacy said. Some residents had to be rescued from their stalled and stranded cars, and others were helped from flooded homes, Lacy said.

More than 200 homes in the Biloxi area sustained flood damage and two roads sustained major pavement washouts, Lacy said.

The Biloxi area had 5 to 10 inches of rain in a 24-hour period, said Bobby Weaver, operations chief for the county emergency agency.

People were evacuated from about a dozen homes in Geneva County in southeast Alabama because of flooding, said Margaret Mixon, the county’s emergency management director. And all roads in the county were closed because of the flooding, Mixon said.

Tornado watches and warnings were issued across the region, which was still reeling from twisters over the past two days. On Thursday, nearly 30 people were hurt when a tornado destroyed dozens of homes and businesses across south-central Mississippi. On Friday, tornadoes struck Louisiana, Alabama and North Carolina, damaging homes and toppling trees.

Up to 17 inches had fallen over three days in isolated areas in Alabama and Mississippi, said National Weather Service meteorologist Kirk Caceras.

“We have springtime storms,” Lacy said. “But this is a very unusual springtime storm.”

To the west, blizzard warnings were in effect until Saturday afternoon for parts of the Texas Panhandle as snow stranded people indoors and left highways closed.

The storm also buried parts of Kansas in more than two feet of snow and knocked out power to thousands of homes and businesses. Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius signed a declaration of disaster emergency that covered 62 counties.

The National Weather Service said parts of southwest Kansas got heavy snowfall, including 28 inches in the Pratt area with six-foot snow drifts.

In Missouri, Kansas City International Airport was closed for more than two hours Saturday because of a mix of freezing rain and snow. Officials said they briefly closed the airport to departing and arriving flights because maintenance crews couldn’t keep up with waves of freezing rain and snow and conditions were too slick for aircraft to operate safely.

The storm also dumped as much as two feet of snow on parts of Oklahoma. It was blamed for two deadly accidents in central Oklahoma and dozens of other collisions in northwest Oklahoma, including one that left a truck driver critically injured.

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