Satellite image showing winter weather stretching from Texas to the mid-Atlantic. Image: NOAA
The combination of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and Arctic air spilling south from Canada is causing a long-lasting ice storm for millions of people in at least eight states.
The panorama: At least two people in Texas were killed when sleet, snow and freezing rain disrupted road and air travel in Dallas on Tuesday. Waves of mixed precipitation are forecast to spread to the northeast over time, lasting through early Thursday in some areas.
- Ice storm warnings were in effect for parts of central, northern and western Texas, western Tennessee, northern Mississippi and much of Arkansas.
- A slew of winter storm warnings and weather advisories were in effect for parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, New Mexico, West Virginia and Virginia.
Getting closer: The National Weather Service warned of “significant impacts” from the freezing rain and sleet and sleet have been observed, including in Dallas-Fort Worth.
- Numerous car accidents along the Interstate 35 corridor between Dallas and Oklahoma City were reported Tuesday, and Austin police reported dozens of accidentsincluding some with their own staff, from midnight to Tuesday morning.
- One person died in Austin after being involved in a traffic crash on Tuesday. Another person, a 45-year-old man, died Monday night after his vehicle slid into a guardrail on a highway near Dallas amid icy road conditions, causing it to roll down an embankment, according to AP.
- On Tuesday afternoon, the NWS forecast office in Dallas issued an ice storm warning for up to a half-inch of ice buildup in areas west of I-35, including Ft. Worth, Denton and Mineral Wells.
Threat level: The winter mix, which was dropping sharply in some areas, was expected to worsen in the near term, as the NWS forecast office in Dallas urged people to avoid travel if possible until early Thursday morning.
- “Multiple rounds of winter precipitation is forecast, with brief lulls followed by flurries of sleet and freezing rain that could dramatically deteriorate road conditions,” the Weather Service said in an online forecast discussion.
- Where mostly freezing rain was forecast to fall, widespread amounts of ice greater than 0.25 inches were expected, with as much as 0.75 inches in some locations. Ice amounts greater than half an inch can overload trees and power lines. , which causes blackouts.
Of note: The areas most at risk of power outages appeared to be from Little Rock to Memphis, as well as parts of Texas.
- “Significant ice and sleet accumulations are expected across much of the area, resulting in widespread travel and infrastructure impacts,” the NWS forecast office in Memphis stated in a forecast discussion.
- More than 22,500 customers lost power in Texas early Wednesday, according to PowerOutage.us.
- In addition to the treacherous roads, the winter storm was also causing air travel delays that are spreading across the country.
- Until 9:40 pm ET, 1,963 flights within, to or from the US had been canceled as of Tuesday. Most flights are coming from or going to Dallas Ft. Worth International Airport, according to FlightAware data. At least 4,616 flights had been delayed.
- Memphis International Airport, the main hub for FedEx, as well as Austin and Nashville, have also seen numerous flight cancellations or delays related to the winter storm.
Arctic air sets records
Whats Next: The cold air responsible for the icy mix has set records across the Rocky Mountains and Plains, and by this weekend, one of the coldest outbreaks in years, possibly decades, will rage across New England.
- On Tuesday morning, the temperature in Wyoming dipped to minus 30 and Denver hit an all-time low of minus 10 on Monday.
- A portion of the polar vortex in the lower atmosphere will lash out from Hudson Bay across New England on Saturday. sending temperatures plummeting amid strong northwesterly winds.
- Wind icy in Boston could drop to -30°F, with a chance of wind icy to -50°F in northern New England.
- Fortunately, the Siberian-level cold will be brief and temperatures will moderate by Monday.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with additional details throughout.