TOPEKA, Kan. -- The National Guard is patrolling highways in Kansas, one of five states in the nation's midsection under winter storm warnings tonight.
The state's emergency management director says three teams were out in Humvees late Thursday, ready to rescue stranded motorists, and more are ready to mobilize if needed.
Snow totals are already topping a foot in many places, including Wichita, Kan., and northern Oklahoma. In addition to snow, the widespread storm system is bringing sleet and freezing rain.
Several accidents and two deaths are being blamed on icy and slushy roadways. Most schools in Kansas and Missouri, and many in neighboring states, were closed Friday and legislatures shut down in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Nebraska and Iowa.
National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Truett said at one point that it was "pouring snow" at a rate of 2 inches per hour. Topeka got 3 inches in a half hour. And at times, the blinding snow was accompanied by thunder and lightning.
Storm drops tree limb on Texas mobile home, 1 dead
One woman is dead after savage winds whipped through rural East Texas and weather officials say a team will be sent to determine if a tornado struck the area.
Sabine County Sheriff Tom Maddox says the storm streaked across the southwestern corner of the county on the Louisiana border about 1:30 p.m. Thursday. Maddox says the storm dropped a tree limb onto a mobile home about 145 miles northeast of Houston, fatally injuring 74-year-old Louise Pillow Stringer.
Maddox says 25 homes were damaged and debris patterns look like those left behind by a tornado, rather than straight-line winds.
National Weather Service meteorologist Jason Hansford in Shreveport, La., says the agency has no conclusive evidence of a tornado, but a survey team will be sent to investigate the area Friday.