A biting Winter storm has blasted the South and Midwest with ice and snow – leaving more than a quarter of a million people without power, grounding hundreds of flights and causing treacherous conditions for travelers.
Two people have died in traffic accidents on roads in Texas, where temperatures plunged below freezing on what residents dubbed ‘Ice Friday’.
Schools in the state canceled classes as temperatures plunged below freezing and thousands of shoppers jammed stores to buy milk, pet food and other supplies.
A quarter of a million Dallas residents are without power as well as 35,000 people in Arkansas.
American Airlines and American Eagle, based in Fort Worth, canceled nearly 1,000 flights due to bad weather in Texas, while Southwest Airlines canceled almost 90 flights.
Earlier this week, many in Texas were basking in spring-like temperatures hitting the 80s, but by Thursday, Texas was facing the same wintry blast that’s hitting much of the U.S., bringing frigid temperatures, ice and snow.
The National Weather Service issued winter storm and ice warnings through much of Friday for parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana.
Some parts of the Midwest were expected to see several inches of snow.
The system has already dumped one to two feet of snow in parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin and draped many communities in skin-stinging cold.
It forced cancellations in places far more accustomed to snow: Officials in Rapid City, South Dakota, said the weather was too cold for ice skating, and temperatures in Montana and Idaho fell below minus 25 degrees.
Storm: This NOAA satellite image taken early Friday shows clouds streaming from the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys into the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, associated with a strong Arctic front
The city of St. Louis opened its first cold-weather shelter of the season and warned residents to dress in layers inside and outside if need be.
After the storm passes, temperatures in parts of the central and western U.S. will be 10 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit through the weekend as a cold air mass spreads through those regions, the National Weather Service said.
At a Dallas Home Depot, manager James McGilberry said the store was already running out of firewood and ice melt on Thursday afternoon, as freezing rain and wind began hitting the region.
Residents were preparing for a storm that threatened to slicken highways, freeze power lines – and leave them stranded through the weekend.
‘It’s almost like a Black Friday,’ McGilberry said, ‘but I guess we’ll call it an Ice Friday.’
A 29-year-old driver, Chase Brandenburgh, was killed just after midnight in Arlington when his car hit an 18-wheeler, which police blamed on the ice roads.
Chris Schein, Oncor’s director of communications, says a massive power outage in downtown Dallas is expected to last hours.
‘When you have an ice storm like this the majority of outages are caused by tree limbs falling into power limbs or people running into power poles,’ he told the Dallas Morning News.
‘And as this [precipitation] continues to fall, lines fall. And the weight of the ice puts pressure on those trees, and eventually the limbs give way. Its not unusual for outages to occur hours and days after an event.’
In the Dallas area, agencies and residents are still haunted by the fiasco of a frozen Super Bowl week two years ago, when an inadequate response to a winter storm crippled the region and left visitors stranded on impassable highways.
This time, all of North Texas mobilized before an expected half-inch of freezing rain began to come down. Temperatures are forecast to stay below freezing after the rain passes, meaning residents will have to contend with icy roads through the weekend.
Dan Shoemaker, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, told the Dallas Morning News: ‘I don’t think the problems are over, even though the precipitation pretty much is.’
He explained that temperatures this evening are going to reach a bitter cold – around 18 degrees (-8 degrees Celsius) – before rising slightly on Saturday morning.
In preparation, the North Texas Tollway Authority had its 79 trucks stationed Thursday to cover 850 miles of highways with sand, and the city of Dallas went to a condition known as ‘Ice Force One’, readying its own army of dump trucks to handle city roads.
Dallas and Fort Worth school districts lead a list of suburban and outlying North Texas school systems, colleges and universities that canceled their Friday classes.
Numerous government offices also closed, but the Dallas Marathon’s organizers had not made a decision whether to cancel Sunday’s race, which draws thousands of runners from inside and outside North Texas.
Debbie Jones was at a supermarket collecting the ingredients for a warm winter meal in advance of Friday.
‘I’m going to make a gumbo, then try and lay it in for tomorrow,’ Jones said.
In West Texas, many truckers had already pulled off Interstate 27 on Thursday, said Leilani Pierce, a manager at a Flying J Travel Plaza in Lubbock.
Students at Oklahoma State University were evicted by school officials from a makeshift tent community they set up ahead of Saturday’s rivalry football game against the University of Oklahoma.
Debbie McCarthy, the university’s athletics coordinator of special events, told the Tulsa World that officials were worried about propane heaters in use starting a fire.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2519364/Texas-braces-Ice-Friday-snow-sweeps-U-S–canceling-hundreds-flights-leaving-250-000-power.html#ixzz2mkLtVWA0
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