Winter storm disrupts US with power outages and icy roads

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The storm, which stretched from Texas to New York, brought heavy snow and freezing rain to a wide swath of the country, grounding thousands of flights and knocking out power in several states.CreditCredit…Jon Cherry for The New York Times

SAN ANTONIO — A sprawling winter storm stretching from northern Texas to upstate New York continued its relentless trek across the country on Thursday, leaving thousands of people stranded in airports, shivering in their homes and making facing freezing rain on icy roads.

According to the forecasts of National Weather Service, while parts of the south could see flash flooding and tornadoes. Governor Greg Abbott of Texas called it “one of the most significant icing events we’ve had in the state of Texas in at least several decades.”

More than 5,000 flights across the country were canceled Thursday afternoon – the worst day for cancellations since April 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic began – and more than 2,300 were delayed, according to FlightAware, a website feedback. Dallas has been particularly hard hit, with at least 65% of outbound flights temporarily grounded at its largest airport until a runway can be reopened around lunchtime.

Power outages were also an issue, with at least 300,000 homes and businesses losing power along the storm’s path, mostly in Ohio and Tennessee.

Credit…Houston Cofield for The New York Times

The arrival of single-digit temperatures, snow and sleet in North Texas came nearly a year after an eight-day freeze caused widespread power outages, plunging the state into darkness. and costing the lives of more than 240 people.

Mr. Abbott of Texas sought to reassure the state’s 29 million residents that this time the power grid would hold.

“The power grid is working very well,” he told a news conference in Austin, adding that the state has enough power to withstand the freezing temperatures.

Local authorities have urged motorists to stay off the roads in Dallas, and school districts in Dallas and Fort Worth, among the state’s largest, were closed for the rest of the week. Outside of Texas, black ice and snow-covered highways caused several crashes in southeastern Kansas. In Arkansas, the weather service said conditions could cause continued power outages and make travel “very dangerous or impossible”.

In Memphis, ice began to build up from continuous freezing rain on Thursday, leading to traffic accidents, downed trees and power outages. Ice storm warnings were issued further east, including parts of western Tennessee and Kentucky.

The freeway situation was more serious in Illinois, where part of Interstate 57 was stuck for several hours Thursday after jackknifing several tractor-trailers.

The conditions also threatened to delay deliveries as truckers encountered difficult conditions along their routes. During a snowy truck stop in Ohio off Interstate 75 between Dayton and Cincinnati on Thursday, dozens of rigs stood idle.

“They said try to get back tomorrow so I’m stuck here at least until then,” said Barry Nelson, 50, who had driven a shipment of oil from Houston to deliver to Monroe, Ohio, to find the terminal closed due to weather.

Credit…Brian Kaiser for The New York Times

Some of the effects of the storm were not yet known. The widespread winter storm was expected to continue its destructive eastward path from Thursday evening through Friday. A forecast predicted that Maine and upstate New York could see up to 18 inches of snow.

“This new storm is about to hit us with the full weather arsenal – heavy snow, sleet and freezing rain,” Governor Kathy Hochul of New York said Wednesday.

Even tornadoes, which tend to be common in the warmer months, have been reported by the exceptionally busy National Weather Service. In Sawyerville, Alabama, south of Tuscaloosa, forecasters urged residents to take shelter as a “large and extremely dangerous” tornado formed. The weather service received reports of damaged homes, broken and uprooted trees, and two pickup trucks that had overturned in a pond.

A tornado watch has been extended to cover the entire central strip of the state.

“Conditions are definitely favorable for one of these organized storms to turn into a tornado,” said Gerald Satterwhite, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Birmingham, Ala.

“Flying debris will be dangerous for those caught without shelter,” warned the weather service, which said the tornado was moving east. “The mobile homes will be damaged or destroyed. Damage to roofs, windows and vehicles will occur. Tree damage is likely.

Frustrated travelers suffered a slew of cancellations at each of the three largest airports serving Ohio – Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, John Glenn Columbus International Airport and Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport – as well as at airports in St. Louis and Austin, Texas.

On average, the Federal Aviation Administration is handling 45,000 flights, meaning Thursday’s cancellations and delays affected more than 10% of air traffic in the United States. Although there are many seasonal variations, daily cancellation totals tend to be less than 2% on average.

Despite the haphazard conditions, people across the country tried to make the most of it. In east Dallas, nine chilly friends met at Lakeland Hills Park, where they drank beer and boogie boarded in the snow.

Others followed suit in Indianapolis, where some residents were excited about the snow. James Schubert said he wanted his 6-month-old daughter to experience snow for the first time.

“She likes to watch the snow fall and blow, so hopefully that translates into snow sports one day,” Schubert said.

However, many residents heeded the warnings and waited for the storm to pass. In southwestern Ohio, roads were quieter than usual and most schools and many factories closed. Only a handful of customers braved the cold for a bite to eat at Angie’s Diner in Carlisle, a small town off Interstate 75. John Delcamp, 59, an industrial worker, ordered a cheeseburger.

“The roads were good,” Mr. Delcamp said, shaking his head at the closures.

Jay Slusser, who runs the cafe with his wife Angie, said: ‘If you watch the news, they’re telling you to stay home, and it seems people are. Still, he said, even if the weather deteriorated, the restaurant would remain open.

Kevin Williams contributed reporting from Carlisle, Ohio, and Marina Trahan Martinez from Dallas. Niraj Chokshi also contributed to the report.

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