ALBANY, N.Y. - The Northeast on Saturday braced for a hard-blowing nor'easter that could bring severe coastal flooding, power outages and more than a foot of snow in some places.

As the system blew across the Plains, the unusually violent spring storm rattled Gulf states with violent thunderstorms, raked Texas with at least two tornadoes and was blamed for five deaths.

"This is very odd for this time of year," National Weather Service meteorologist John Koch said Saturday in New York. "This is something that you would expect to see more in the middle of winter."

A tornado Friday night tore roofs off houses and destroyed porches and garages in Haltom City, Texas. About a dozen tractor-trailer rigs were blown onto their sides.

"I felt my house start shaking like the wind and I ran in here and grabbed my little girl," Amanda Rymer, 21, said. "As soon as I moved her, the roof fell in right where she was standing."

A second tornado that night in Benbrook, southwest of Fort Worth, caused minor damage, according to the National Weather Service. More wind damage to power lines, trees and roofs was reported to the east in Dallas and Rockwall counties, but meteorlogists had yet to confirm Saturday whether tornadoes formed there.

One man was killed in Fort Worth by a pile of lumber that fell on him from his truck during Friday's storm, and a police officer in Irving died when his patrol car slid on wet pavement and struck a utility pole, authorities said.

Three people were killed in Kansas in traffic accidents on highways covered with ice and slush, police said.

Snow stopped falling by Saturday afternoon in eastern Kansas, where some schools and businesses closed Friday as blowing snow created whiteout conditions. Up to 15 inches of snow fell in southwestern Kansas.

By Saturday afternoon, the system was spreading rain from Louisiana to Virginia and across much of the Ohio Valley. Lines of strong thunderstorms rolled across Louisiana and Mississippi into northern Alabama, and the National Weather Service posted tornado warnings for wide areas of Mississippi and some parts of Alabama. By Saturday night the storm reached western South Carolina, where minor wind damage was reported.

The weather system was forecast to strengthen when it reaches the East Coast on Sunday and form a nor'easter, a storm that follows the coast northward, with northeasterly wind driving waves and heavy rain.

A flood watch was posted for the New York City region, as the weather service forecast 2 to 4 inches of rain Sunday with wind gusting to 50 mph. Snow and sleet were possible inland, Koch said.

Officials warned that coastal Long Island could see some of its worst flooding since a winter storm that wrecked havoc on the island in late 1992. New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer said some low-lying areas may need to be evacuated, and deployed 3,200 members of the National Guard to areas predicted to be in the storm's path.

Further north, the National Weather Service said there could be as much as 20 inches of snow possible at higher elevations in the Adirondacks and several inches of rain in the Hudson Valley by the time the storm passes late Monday and Tuesday.

New Jersey was ready for whatever may fall _ snow or rain. About 250 trucks were ready to plow and spread salt on state highways if needed. The northwest corner of the state was expecting snow, while the rest of the state was bracing for possible flooding.

"We're ready for everything, which based upon the forecast, is pretty much what we could get," said Joe Orlando, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation and the New Jersey Turnpike Authority