Feb 20 (Reuters) - A strong storm system packing damaging winds, dense fog, and heavy snow pelted the central part of the United States on Thursday, causing massive traffic jams and loss of power, meteorologists said.
At least a dozen tornadoes were reported in central Illinois, where strong winds damaged and destroyed numerous buildings and toppled trees and power lines, according to the weather service.
"An abundance of moisture and instability along the boundary will make severe weather and heavy downpours a concern," the weather service said.
The same front on Friday is expected to barrel east producing strong thunderstorms, freezing rain and snow storms, the weather service predicted.
Dense fog caused a roughly 20-vehicle crash during rush hour on the northbound Interstate 57 in Will County, Illinois, briefly closing the highway, state police said. Multiple injuries were reported, but none are believed to be life threatening.
The Nashville area was hit hard on Thursday evening with strong winds that brought down trees and power lines, media reported. A weather spotter told WSMV, an NBC affiliate, that winds reached 95 mph (153 kph) in Sumner County, northeast of Nashville.
Wind gusts of up to 80 mph (129 kph) tore off the roofs of houses and barns, destroyed outbuildings and brought down power lines and trees that blocked roadways throughout the central United States, the National Weather Service said.
Golf ball-sized hail pelted Hornersville, a small community in southeast Missouri, while quarter-sized hail fell in parts of Indiana, Mississippi and Kentucky.
The National Weather Service issued blizzard and winter storm warnings for parts of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa through Friday morning.
The service predicted near-zero visibility as winds whipped up to 45 mph (72 kph) and snow accumulation up to 1 foot (30 cm) in parts of the region. The weather caused schools throughout the region to close or delay the start of classes on Friday. (Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee and Tim Ghianni in Nashville; Editing by Eric M. Johnson and Clarence Fernandez)
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