Thousands of Americans were left stranded in airports and shivering in their homes on Thursday by a sprawling winter storm reaching from North Texas to upstate New York, which brought freezing rain and more than a foot of snow to a wide stretch of the country.
More than 4,800 flights had been canceled and hundreds more delayed by early afternoon, according to FlightAware, a tracking website. Dallas was particularly hard hit, with 65 percent of outgoing flights at its largest airport grounded until a runway could be reopened around lunchtime.
On an average day, the Federal Aviation Administration handles 45,000 flights, meaning the cancellations and delays on Thursday affected more than 10 percent of air traffic in the United States.
Widespread, heavy snow and freezing rain were forecast from the Southwestern United States to New England on Thursday and into Friday, the National Weather Service said, while portions of the South could see flash flooding and tornadoes. Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas called it “one of the most significant icing events that we’ve had in the state of Texas in at least several decades.”
As of 3 p.m. Eastern time, nearly 130,000 customers in Tennessee, over 45,000 customers in Texas and over 20,000 in Arkansas had lost power, according to PowerOutage.us, a website that aggregates data from utilities.
In North Texas, two to four inches of snow and sleet were expected on Thursday, with light accumulations of ice. Local officials urged motorists to stay off the roads in Dallas, and the Dallas and Fort Worth school districts, among the largest in the state, were closed for the rest of the week.
The storm arrived in Texas almost exactly a year after a weeklong freeze led to the deaths of more than 200 people and caused widespread power outages. Governor Abbott assured the state’s 29 million residents on Thursday that the power grid was expected to hold.
“The power grid is performing very well,” he said. “There is plenty of power available at this time, as well as plenty of power expected for the remainder of today and early tomorrow.”
Officials in rural southeast Kansas reported several accidents on roads and highways slicked with snow and black ice. In Arkansas, the Weather Service said conditions could cause power outages and make travel “very hazardous or impossible.”
Farther east, parts of western Tennessee and Kentucky were under an ice storm warning. In Memphis, ice began accumulating from continuous freezing rain on Thursday, leading to traffic accidents, downed trees and power outages.
“The unusual part is the amount,” Tom Salem, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said of the freezing rain. “Usually the storms move, but this storm is sort of sitting over us.”
In Illinois, a portion of Interstate 57 was blocked for several hours on Thursday after multiple tractor-trailers jackknifed.
The conditions threatened to delay deliveries as truck drivers encountered harsh conditions along their routes. At a snowy Ohio truck stop off Interstate 75 between Dayton and Cincinnati on Thursday, dozens of rigs sat idle.
Barry Nelson, 50, had driven an oil shipment from Houston to deliver to Monroe, Ohio, only to find the terminal closed because of the weather.
“They said to try back tomorrow, so I’m stuck here at least until then,” Mr. Nelson said.
The winter storm was expected to continue pushing east on Thursday. Parts of Maine could record up to 18 inches of snow, and up to 18 inches were also possible in parts of upstate New York.
“This newest storm is poised to hit us with everything in the weather arsenal — heavy snow, sleet and freezing rain,” Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York said on Wednesday.
Source: NYT > Top Stories