The Heat Is Online

Storms Cripple Cities From Minnesota to Mississippi

Storms kill nine in South, close roads in Midwest

The Boston Globe, Feb. 26, 2001

PONTOTOC, Miss. - Winter storms in the United States killed at least nine people and injured dozens over the weekend, damaging property and closing highways, officials said yesterday.

At least one tornado swept through several Mississippi counties Saturday evening, leveling scores of houses and killing at least seven people.

''We believe the tornado was about 20 miles long and three-quarters of a mile wide. It just cut through everything in its path,'' said Bill Rutledge, mayor of Pontotoc, a town 80 miles southeast of Memphis that suffered the most destruction.

Rutledge said at least 200 homes and an unknown number of cars and trucks were destroyed in the county. He could not confirm reports that a second tornado hit the area Saturday night.

Officials in some parts of the state reported 80 mile-per-hour winds and severe hailstorms.

''In some places where it hit, there is nothing left of the houses except the foundations,'' Pontotoc Deputy Sheriff Buddy Eubank said.

The destruction in Mississippi was part of the trail of a large winter storm that moved across the central United States during the weekend. It was still causing trouble yesterday in the northern Midwest, where blizzard conditions brought travel to a standstill in some areas.

Two deaths on Saturday were attributed to icy road conditions in Indiana and Wisconsin.

Whiteouts prompted police to warn against travel in parts of Minnesota, eastern South Dakota, and northeast Iowa yesterday.

Heavy snow created hazardous conditions on roads that were still open, including those in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

A section of Interstate 90 was closed in South Dakota, and parts of Interstate 29 in that state were barely passable because of drifting snow, highway officials reported.

Interstate 35 was closed in northern Iowa. Forecasters said nearly a foot of snow was expected in the hardest-hit areas.

High winds howling from the same storm caused power outages in the Chicago area and led to flight delays and cancellations at O'Hare International Airport yesterday.

In Mississippi, police said about 30 people were injured by the tornado. Several people were listed in critical condition at a Tupelo hospital.

This story ran on page A02 of the Boston Globe on 2/26/2001.