Deadly blizzard fizzles to heavy rain, but some still digging out of snow

(Reuters) – The post-Christmas blizzard that left at least two people dead in the U.S. Midwest and stranded thousands of travelers has fizzled to heavy rain storms that will soak swaths of the southeast, Gulf Coast and New England through the weekend, the National Weather Service said.

“It’s bringing a lot of rain, we have flash flood watches and warnings throughout the East coast, but basically, this is petering out,” said Brian Hurley, a meteorologist with the NWS Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

“Think lots of rain, some ice, but I can’t say this is such a dangerous event any more,” Hurley said.

After dumping more than 6-to-10 inches of snow on the Midwest, the storm dropped about 5 inches of rain in Biloxi, Mississippi, and 4 inches of rain on Baton Rouge, Louisiana and the Gulf Coast late Thursday and into Friday, forecasters said.

Hurley said that the storm weakens as it spreads eastward. About 2 inches of rain dropped on Atlanta and north Georgia with another inch or so left to come.

About an inch will drop on western New York and Pennsylvania and turn into freezing rain in northern New England.

“There are still some challenges, but it’s no longer a blizzard event,” Hurley said.

But the Midwest was still digging out of the snow the blizzard left in parts of Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota.

A state of emergency was still in effect in Kansas early Friday.

A motorist was killed in Kansas on Thursday in a crash blamed on the storm which also caused the cancellation or delays of thousands of airline flights and injured two people on a commercial jet over the Dallas area.

A 58-year-old woman in Louisina was killed Wednesday when a tree fell on her trailer, CNN and other media reported.

But air traffic was slowly returning to normal early Friday with about 300 flights canceled and about 3,000 delayed for an hour or more, according to the tracking website, down from a height of 7,000 delays.

The Kansas Division of Emergency Management warned motorists early Friday to stay off the roads.

And if you have to travel, “stay safe and take it slow,” it posted on the Internet.

Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta, additional reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Adrian Croft

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