US winter storm rushes east with millions under weather warnings

At least two people have died as a powerful winter storm moves east across the United States, spawning tornadoes in southern states and blanketing others in snow.

A young boy and his mother were killed in Louisiana when their home was destroyed by a tornado, police say.

The huge storm also brought blizzard-like conditions to the Midwest, with roads and schools closed and some areas reporting 4 feet (1.2 m) of snow.

Around 4,500 flights have been delayed and hundreds more cancelled.

Some 500,000 people in four states – Nebraska, Wyoming, South Dakota and Minnesota – are under blizzard warnings, with strong winds and heavy snowfall making travel difficult. Millions more across the country are subject to less severe winter weather warnings.

Severe storms are forecast along the Gulf Coast, including Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and parts of Florida. There are also tornado warnings in parts of Louisiana and Mississippi.

Rescuers searched for hours before finding the mother and son who died in Louisiana, police say, after a tornado destroyed the family home in a rural area near the town of Shreveport.

“We couldn’t even find the house he described with the address. Everything was gone,” Sheriff Steve Prator told local TV station KSLA. He added that the child’s father had reported them missing.

In the small town of Farmerville about 160 km away, at least 25 people were injured after a tornado, according to local media KNOE.

At least a dozen tornadoes touched down in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Mississippi on Tuesday, injuring residents and destroying homes and buildings.

More were reported on Wednesday as Louisiana’s governor declared a state of emergency.

Most of the United States will likely feel some impact from the storm, with cold weather and snow forecast as it moves east over the next few days.

“It’s a pretty vigorous storm system,” Rich Otto, meteorologist at the Weather Prediction Center, told the BBC. “This one’s a little bigger than your average winter storm.”

Inclement weather has also caused hundreds of flight disruptions at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport in Texas and Denver International Airport in Colorado over the past two days, according to FlightAware.com.

The storm also spread across Canada, bringing heavy snowfall and high winds to the southern Prairie region, including the provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Freezing rain and other wintry conditions are expected to hit the upper Midwest and northeastern United States on Thursday, the National Weather Service said.

The storm system began hitting the United States last Friday, bringing strong winds and snow to parts of California.

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