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ICYMI: Blizzard, cold and flooding rains roil parts of U.S., and heavy rains nearly ends Australia's bushfire catastrophe

AccuWeather logo AccuWeather 2/14/2020 AccuWeather Staff

It was a frigid week for several spots across the United States as blizzards hindered travel on slick and slushy roadways for many drivers. Meanwhile, the flooding in the Deep South led to a rather unfortunate side effect in Alabama, and some much-needed good news has risen from the ashes of the devastating Australia bushfires. Here's a look back at the week in weather.

Brutal blizzard, frigid cold blasts through northern US

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A truck drove off the side of the road in limited visibility Wednesday morning near Fargo, North Dakota. (Photo/North Dakota Highway Patrol)

For people enduring the relentless snowstorm that pummeled parts of the northern U.S. at midweek, the theme of the day was clear: "stay home." Their best bet was to steer well clear of the treacherous roadways, and officials across Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota advised them to do just that as the snowy, windy conditions prompted businesses, schools and churches to close through Thursday.

The blizzard that blasted through the region Wednesday rendered travel "near impossible," giving drivers brave enough to face the brutal weather an extremely hard time trying to see the conditions ahead of them, leading to a few accidents. A bus crash on the slush-covered turnpike in Wichita, Kansas, sent 20 people to the hospital. In Minnesota, state troopers reported multiple vehicles having veered off the slick roads, including several jackknifed tractor-trailers.

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A man clears snow from his driveway of his house in Wheeling, Ill., Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

The conditions were so severe that officials across the region issued blizzard warnings Wednesday. The North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) issued "do not travel" advisories for the eastern part of the state, and some major highways like Interstate 29 were shut down completely for a brief time.

Dangerous travel and low visibility were just a couple of threats people contended with - the risk of frostbite was another. As the blizzard arrived, temperatures plummeted in some areas like Grand Forks, North Dakota. The AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperature dropped from 20 degrees Fahrenheit all the way down to a bone-chilling minus 61 F in an eight-hour period overnight.

As snow plowed eastward, 2-6 inches accumulated from Chicago to Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio. Snowy conditions and plunging temperatures have prompted 300 cancellations and nearly 1,000 delays of arriving and departing flights at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport as of early afternoon on Thursday, according to FlightAware.

Flooding inundates parts of Deep South

a herd of sheep walking across a river © Provided by AccuWeather
In this aerial photo provided by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, area officials monitor a potential dam/levee failure in the Springridge Place subdivision in Yazoo County, Miss., Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. A Tennessee hillside collapsed, roads were flooded and rivers were rising across the Southeast on Tuesday after a day of heavy rains that once again threatened a Mississippi lake where a dam previously was in danger of failing. (David Battaly/Mississippi Emergency Management Agency via AP)

Earlier in the week, severe flooding left homes in parts of the Deep South surrounded by water. Videos of shocking scenes in places like Mississippi and Alabama show roadways turned into rivers with floodwaters inching up to people's doorsteps. Heavy rainfall in Carthage, Mississippi, flooded the Pearl River, impacting multiple homes nearby and causing the river to crest at its highest level in 37 years.


In Alabama, the flooding was just as severe, as the Coosa River in Childersburg flowed over its banks on Feb. 12, leaving riverfront pavilions and boat docks covered with at least a foot of water. Just the day before, flash flood warnings were issued across the state amid moderate to heavy rains. On Sunday, some Tuscaloosa County roads were inundated with almost 8 inches of rain, prompting several water rescues that afternoon, the Washington Post reported.

One of the more unsavory side effects of the storm is the millions of gallons of dirty sewage water that overflowed from the drains in Alabama following days of downpours, according to the Associated Press. Birmingham and Tuscaloosa residents had to deal with more than 18.5 million gallons of the unclean water gushing from sewer pipes over a 10-day period, according to an Alabama Department of Environmental Management report released Wednesday.

Accidents, slow travel abound as wintry weather hits southern Rockies, Texas panhandle

Snowy conditions didn't just impact travelers in the North this week. The winter storm and icy conditions that hit the southern Rocky Mountains and Texas Panhandle caused headaches and slowdowns out on the roads across New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado. In Denver on Tuesday morning, authorities had to shut down several highway lanes to protect drivers from the snow and ice that had coated the pavement overnight.

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Snow obscures writing on the side of the mountains above Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, as seen from El Paso, Texas, on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)

Colorado's capital received 2-4 inches of snow on Monday night, and while that's not exactly unusual for the city, the National Weather Service office in Boulder still placed the area under a winter weather advisory. Of course, with wintry conditions usually comes at least a handful of unfortunate accidents, and that was the case in Denver on Tuesday. The police department reported at least 46 crashes that had occurred that morning.

In the Texas Panhandle, the same storm system dumped up to 3 inches of snow over the area, leaving patches of snow and ice over many roads and forcing schools and businesses to shut their doors or delay activities.

'The threat has ended': Rain spells relief in battle against Australia bushfires

Residents in some of the bushfire-ravaged parts of Australia can breathe long-awaited sighs of relief, as officials declared this week that all fires in New South Wales were officially contained.

"The good news just keeps rolling in!," the New South Wales Rural Fire Service tweeted on Tuesday after announcing that a fire burning for over 200 days was now kaput. While recent downpours across the state resulted in flooding, they also aided in putting out around 30 fires, including one that had ravaged more than 1.24 million acres.

From Feb. 8-9, Sydney recorded its heaviest rainfall in decades after 15.42 inches doused the city over four days - over three times its normal rainfall amount for all of February. Still, the rain spells good news amid one of Australia's worst bushfire seasons.

"The threat has ended for the parts of New South Wales, where they've had so many fires," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Eric Leister. "The soil is so saturated now that fires aren't really going to spread, and the environment is not favorable for these big, fast-spreading fires that they had at the end of last year."

To date, the Australia blazes have killed at least 28 people and nearly half a billion animals.

It snowed in Baghdad for the 2nd time in a century 

Something out of the ordinary occurred in Baghdad on Tuesday - snow fell in Iraq for the first time in 12 years, marking only the second time in a century that this has happened.

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A protester walks tosses a snowball during anti-government protests, in Tahrir Square, Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Feb.11, 2020. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

The "fairly rare" event was a result of cold air from western Russia making its way toward the atmosphere's upper levels and into the city, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls.

While it's pretty uncommon for Baghdad to see snow, Nicholls added that northern Iraq is no stranger to it during winter, since that portion of the country lies at higher elevations than the capital city.

Storm Ciara wreaks havoc, kills at least 5 in northern Europe

Deadly Storm Ciara left behind a mess in Europe last weekend as it pounded the country with powerful winds, heavy downpours and subsequent flooding that killed at least five people, according to the AP, and interrupted hundreds of flights. The storm impacted countries including the United Kingdom, Sweden, Poland and Slovenia as well as other parts of northern Europe.

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A lifeboat passes white cliffs, as Storm Ciara hits Newhaven, on the south coast of England, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

In addition to those deaths, several others were hurt by falling and flying debris amid powerful gusts, which reached speeds of up to 100 mph in some locations, including Germany, where Ciara was known as Sabine.

The storm left hundreds of thousands of people without electricity. By Monday in the U.K., nearly half a million customers had lost power, while in France, over 125,000 homes and businesses dealt with power cuts from the brutal weekend storm.

Ciara's rainfall triggered flooding across the U.K., where there were several reports of 1-2 inches. Some areas across Wales and northern England were drenched with over 4 inches of rainfall.


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