Jan 11 (Reuters) - At least four people died, more than 1,000 flights were canceled in Chicago, hundreds more across the Central Plains and Northeast, and thousands were without power in parts of seven states, as a massive winter storm dumped snow, freezing rain and hail from Texas to Michigan on Saturday.
Hurricane-force wind gusts, golf-ball-sized hail and between 2-to-5 inches (5-13 cm)of snow fell on Friday night and early Saturday as the storms pushed from Texas, the Southeast and up to Great Lakes and into Maine, forecasters with the National Weather Service (NWS) said.
More snow with accumulations between 6-to-12 inches of snow was expected through Sunday in parts of Illinois, Michigan, northern New York and into New England.
“The real danger comes from the wind and ice accumulation,” said forecaster Bob Oravec, of the NWS’ Weather Prediction Center in College Park Maryland.
More than half-an-inch of ice is predicted to cake onto highways and roads across the South and North East through Saturday night into Sunday morning, he said.
“The ice and wind will make driving treacherous, and trees can snap and knock out power and do other damage,” he said.
Two people were killed when the storm destroyed a trailer home in northwestern Louisiana late Friday, according to the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office. Local media reports that a third person died after a tree fell on a home in that state.
A fourth person was reportedly killed Friday in the storms when a car slide off the road and into a creek in Dallas, NBC news reported.
About 200,000 homes and businesses were without power across Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Illinois and Michigan, Saturday afternoon, according the tracking site PowerOutage.us.
The bulk of the nation’s flight delays and cancellations hit Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, with more than 1,000 flights canceled and hundreds more delayed on Saturday afternoon, according to flightaware.com.
Tornadoes were also reported to have damaged or destroyed some buildings in Arkansas and Missouri, forecasters said.
NWS said more than 18 million people in Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma remained at risk of tornadoes, flooding rains Saturday. The area includes heavily populated Dallas, Houston and Austin, Texas.
Oravec said that hurricane-force wind gusts of about 75 mph (120 kph) have been reported in across the southeast.
As the storm pushes eastward, rain should end overnight in many of the Southern states, but the Northeast and New England can expect severe weather to last for another day, he said.
Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Marguerita Choy