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Winter Chills Midwest; Melting Snow Floods East

The Winter of ‘96 whipsawed much of the nation Friday, sending Midwestern temperatures crashing 58 degrees in one Illinois town and melting blizzard snow into flash floods in the East.

Several towns in West Virginia were warned to evacuate after the Greenbrier and Potomac rivers jumped their banks. In Keyser, helicopters were used to lift some people to safety, and some residents had to be removed by boat in Parsons when the Cheat River flooded.

“We’re stranded and no one can get to us,” said Cindy McQueen of Marlinton, a town of 1,100 on the backbone of the Appalachian Mountains about 180 miles west of Washington. “If it gets to our house, the whole town will be wiped out. Water is running in basement windows in our section of town.”

Some 330 West Virginia roads were closed because of high water and officials estimated that at least 430 homes were damaged. That number was expected to rise as some rivers crest Saturday.

There was also flooding in Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. In Ligonier, Pa., rising creek water trapped at least 16 people in the township building.

In the Midwest, Plains and South, Arctic air sent temperatures tumbling.

Cities that saw record highs on Thursday woke up to a deep freeze. Moline, Ill., fell to minus 2, a 58-degree drop; Chicago went from 61 degrees to 10, with a wind chill of 21 below zero. Indianapolis was 61 on Thursday, and 4 on Friday. Atlanta fell from 63 degrees to 21.

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