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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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.”
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.