winter storm
Winter storm alerts in place as millions brace for more rain, snow, and ice
02:03 - Source: CNN

Editor’s Note: Caught in the path of the storm? Use CNN’s lite site for low bandwidth.

CNN  — 

A mammoth storm dropping significant snowfall Wednesday threatens to paralyze parts of the Midwest and South with ice, snow, dangerously cold temperatures and power outages for days.

More than 100 million people were under winter weather alerts, stretching from the Rockies to New England.

A powerful storm is bringing heavy rain, snow and ice to the eastern US.

Heavy snow has been falling since Tuesday night, impacting areas from Colorado to Michigan. The Denver metro area picked up 8 to 12 inches by early Wednesday afternoon and a few locations near Colorado Springs received more than 20 inches. One area in Illinois picked up more than 14 inches of snow.

A Denver Fire Department truck heads to a call on Wednesday.

Ice accumulation is expected across the South, including in Texas, where 246 people died – most from hypothermia – after a winter storm last February. And the effects of the hard freeze could linger across several states into the weekend.

Sign up for weather email alerts

“A corridor of heavy ice accumulation (exceeding a quarter of an inch) is likely from Texas through the Ohio Valley,” the Weather Prediction Center said Wednesday.

“Locations impacted by snow and/or ice are expected to have temperatures remain below freezing, and well below average for at least a couple of days after the wintry precip(itation) ends.”

More than 4,000 flights in the areas affected have been canceled Wednesday and Thursday because of the storm, according to FlightAware. Thursday is shaping up to be one of the 10 worst days for air travel of the past year, with more than 40% of flights already canceled at more than a dozen major US airports from Texas to Ohio.

Some schools have called off classes, while several governors have declared states of emergency or taken other steps to prepare for hazardous roads and power outages.

Get live updates on the storm

While snow is a threat to many, ice could lead to more misery, CNN meteorologist Robert Shackelford said.

“I do think that ice will end up being a bigger threat due to the more lasting impacts of ice on power lines and tree limbs,” he said.

“Ice accumulations are usually very small – we are talking about fractions of inches. Yet these accumulations can bring widespread power outages and impossible travel conditions.”

See where power outages are

Texas power grid is better prepared, governor says

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott assured residents the state is better prepared to handle an ice storm now than it was in February 2021, when a snow and ice storm led to widespread power outages and left thousands freezing for weeks.

The power grid – Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT – is in a better position to handle the potential impact of the storm, Abbott said Tuesday.

“Right now, the prognostication is that ERCOT will have an access of 15,000 megawatts of power available even at time of highest demand,” the governor said.

“So ERCOT is well-prepared for conditions as they currently stand but remains flexible in order to be able to be responsive to power demand needs.”

Still, power may go out because of problems unrelated to the grid’s capability, including falling trees or icy power lines, Abbott warned.

This week’s storm is not expected to be as cold as last year’s deadly storm, but there will be other challenges, the National Weather Service office in Fort Worth said.

“We do expect more ice which means more treacherous road conditions,” the office tweeted. “Icing may cause localized power outages.”

National Guard and plows are ready to go

After the storm pushes to the south and east, conditions are expected turn more icy than snowy, with the threat of significant ice accumulation for millions.

Forecasts show the impacts could linger until Saturday or Sunday, especially in the South and Mid-South.

Among the major cities in the storm’s path:

Dallas will likely get up to three-tenths of an inch of ice and up to 3 inches of snow, with the worst hitting the city between midnight and noon CT Thursday.

St. Louis is expected to get pummeled with 8 to 11 inches of snow and 1.5 inches of sleet. The most intense part of the storm for St. Louis is happening now through Thursday morning.

Cincinnati faces a triple whammy of frigid precipitation: up to a half inch of ice, up to 3 inches of sleet and up to 3 inches of snow. Freezing rain on Thursday morning is expected to give way to snow by the afternoon.

Boston and New York, still recovering from last weekend’s heavy snow, are more likely to see a wintry mix Friday with this system. Freezing rain with sleet is more likely in New York, while Boston will see sleet and a little snow.

In Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson has deployed some 88 members of the National Guard. He signed an executive order that will allocate $250,000 for recovery efforts.

In Illinois, Gov. JB Pritzker activated the National Guard and issued a disaster declaration. The state Department of Transportation will also deploy more than 1,800 trucks and equipment to plow, treat roads and respond to weather emergencies, it said.

The governors of Missouri and Oklahoma declared states of emergency until Thursday due to the storm.

Oklahoma City could see up to 8 inches of snow as well as ice accumulations in the quarter-inch range, with some places seeing up to half an inch of ice, the National Weather Service said.

“The winter storm is expected to include a mix of freezing rain, sleet, snow, strong wind gusts and low temperatures across the state beginning Wednesday, which may result in power outages,” Gov. Kevin Stitt said in a news release.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson activated the National Guard, saying it will be ready to help the state’s highway patrol with stranded drivers.

See how much snow has already fallen

Snow was falling Wednesday afternoon in Oklahoma City.

School closed for some

The potentially dangerous conditions have led the Dallas Independent School District to close Thursday and Friday, and schools are not expected to make up those days, officials said.

In Kansas City, Missouri, the school district moved to shut its doors Wednesday due to the storm’s potential impact.

“Students are not expected to log into virtual learning,” the district posted on Facebook. “Enjoy your old-fashioned snow day, and be safe!”

Santa Fe Public Schools, a district that serves 13,500 students, closed schools and nixed remote learning Wednesday due to hazardous weather and driving conditions.

CNN’s Taylor Ward, Pete Muntean, Greg Wallace, Steve Almasy, Monica Garrett, Judson Jones, Chris Boyette, Jennifer Gray, Dave Hennen, Gregory Lemos, Dave Alsup, Joe Sutton, Ed Lavandera and Amy Simonson contributed to this report.