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Powerful winter storm pushes east

By Tom Watkins, CNN
updated 6:50 PM EST, Fri February 21, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Low visibility causes ground delays at three New York-area airports
  • NEW: Possible tornadoes touch down in Georgia, Maryland
  • NEW: High winds strike parts of the Southeast, mid-Atlantic
  • Storm is expected to affect the Upper Midwest, Great Lakes and Northeast

(CNN) -- Parts of the Eastern United States on Friday fended off freezing rain and snow as a powerful winter storm lumbered through the Great Lakes, driving thunderstorms eastward.

The National Weather Service predicted the storm would affect the Upper Midwest, Great Lakes and the Northeast, with blizzard conditions in Minnesota and Iowa and strong winds across a portion of the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley.

Severe storms -- with wind and large hail -- were possible from Boston to Miami, said CNN meteorologist Sherri Pugh.

Frozen conditions may have been a factor in a crash early Friday in Maine that left a driver dead. An SUV driver lost control of the vehicle while it was traveling on a snow-covered stretch in Somerville and slammed into a big rig, the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office said.

Several New York-area airports -- LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark in northern New Jersey -- were experiencing ground delays as of 6 p.m, due to limited visibility, the Federal Aviation Administration reported online.

The wild weather also brought strong winds to parts of the Southeast and mid-Atlantic, though that threat was over by evening.

Before then, the weather service reported two possible tornadoes early Friday afternoon in south-central Georgia, including one in Johnson County that damaged 12 buildings, including ripping the front doors off a fire station.

There was also an EF0 tornado -- indicating 65 to 85 mph winds lasting three seconds or more -- in Compton, Maryland, 60 miles southeast of Washington, D.C.

Heavy winds also downed trees in Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, while up to quarter-size hail was reported on Florida's Atlantic coast around St. Augustine.

This all came on the heels of severe storms that struck Illinois late Thursday afternoon, knocking out power, damaging buildings and spawning floods, the National Weather Service reported.

On Thursday night, storms and high winds swept across Tennessee, pelting Nashville with rain and hail and leaving thousands in the dark.

In Illinois, damaging wind and golf ball-size hail were reported overnight. About 24,000 people in the state lost power, according to utility Ameren Illinois.

Effingham and Champaign counties in Illinois reported flooding.

"We have some power lines down and a little water in the road in some places," said Pam Jacobs, director of the Effingham County Emergency Management Agency.

John Dwyer, emergency management coordinator for Champaign County, reported road flooding and standing water in farm fields. He said the flooding was caused by 3 inches of rain Thursday coupled with the snow melt. The National Weather Service said radar indicated rainfall of 3 to 4 inches per hour.

The Illinois State Police reported that fog caused a wreck on Interstate 57 in northeast Illinois, involving at least 27 vehicles. Authorities said they received reports of injuries, none of them life-threatening.

As the storm moved eastward, winds knocked down dozens of trees in Nashville, reported CNN affiliate WSMV-TV. The station said trained weather spotters reported 1-inch hail and 95-mph winds.

CNN's Ed Payne, Greg Botelho and Ralph Ellis contributed to this report.

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