Winter storm continues to wreak havoc on southern U.S.
A deadly storm system lashed a large swath of the southern U.S. with bands of sleet and snow for a third day on Wednesday, grounding more than 3,300 flights, leaving hundreds of thousands without power, forcing school closures and making already treacherous driving conditions worse.
At least eight weather-related deaths have been confirmed in Texas, according to numbers obtained by CBS News Wednesday.
In the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area residents contended with ice that weighed down trees, leaving yards and streets littered with broken limbs and downed lines.
“I need formula for my newborn,” Angelica Tomolak of Fort Worth told CBS DFW Wednesday about why she was out on the roads. “I have a little bit left, but just in case the roads are bad tomorrow, I wanted to have some more.”
Watches and warnings about wintry conditions were issued for an area stretching from West Texas’ border with Mexico through Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, and into western Tennessee and northern Mississippi. Several rounds of mixed precipitation, including freezing rain and sleet, were in store for many areas throughout the day, meaning some places could get hit multiple times, forecasters said.
“It actually looks like it’s going to be getting worse again across Texas, it is already a pretty big area of freezing rain across western and southwestern Texas,” said Bob Oravec, a lead National Weather Service forecaster based in Camp Springs, Maryland.
Oravec said the icy weather is expected to move northeastward across parts of Oklahoma and Arkansas into western Tennessee and northern Mississippi before it starts to dissipate.
“By later in the day on Thursday it should be pretty much done, and all the … precipitation will be well downstream across parts of the South and where it will be mostly heavy rain,” Oravec said.
By Wednesday night, more than 3,300 U.S. flights had been canceled, including about three-quarters of the flights at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, and more than two-thirds at Dallas Love Field, according to the flight tracking service FlightAware.com.
Dallas-Forth Worth International is American Airlines’ biggest hub, and Love Field is a major base for Southwest Airlines.
Because of the storm, the Detroit Pistons were unable to fly home following their game Monday against the Dallas Mavericks, and the NBA postponed the Pistons’ Wednesday night home game against the Washington Wizards.
Many schools throughout Arkansas have announced they would be closed on Thursday. School systems in Dallas; Austin, Texas; and Memphis, Tennessee, also canceled classes for Thursday.
In Texas, more than 344,000 customers were without power Wednesday night, according to utility tracker PowerOutage, a website that tracks utility reports.
More than half of those outages were in Austin, where the city’s utility warned residents who had been without electricity for 10 hours or longer that lights and heat may not come back on until Thursday. Overnight low temperatures were expected to fall to 33 degrees in Austin, with more chances for freezing rain, according to the National Weather Service. Austin Energy asked customers to prepare emergency plans and relocate before dusk if needed.
Pablo Vegas, who heads the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, vowed that the state’s electrical grid and natural gas supply would be reliable and that there wouldn’t be a repeat of the February 2021 blackouts, when the grid was on the brink of total failure.
The icy weather delayed the Memphis funeral service for Tyre Nichols, who died following a brutal beating by police during a traffic stop.
Memphis-Shelby County Schools canceled classes Wednesday due to freezing rain and hazardous road conditions. The school system serves about 100,000 students. The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis also closed due to the weather.
Meanwhile, New York City on Tuesday received its first measurable snowfall of the season, with a quarter-inch of snow recorded in Central Park. It marks the latest point ever in the season that the city has received measurable snowfall since record keeping began in 1869, according to the National Weather Service.
Chris Warren, meteorologist for The Weather Channel, warned that the Northeast will see frigid temperatures this upcoming weekend.
“Temperatures in the Northeast in some places are going to feel like they are 20 to even 50 degrees below zero,” Warren said.
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