CHICAGO (AP) — A major winter storm with millions of Americans in its path spread rain, freezing rain and heavy snow further across the country on Thursday, knocking out power to more than 100,000 homes and businesses and disrupting flights at the busy Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.
A long stretch of states from New Mexico to Maine remained under winter storm warnings and watches and the path of the storm stretched further from the central U.S. into more of the South and Northeast. Heavy snow was expected from the southern Rockies to northern New England, while forecasters said heavy ice buildup was likely from Texas to Pennsylvania.
“We have a lot of real estate covered by winter weather impacts this morning,” Andrew Orrison, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in College Park, Maryland, said early Thursday. “We do have an expansive area of heavy snow, sleet and freezing rain occurring.”
Parts of Ohio, New York and northern New England were expected to see heavy snowfall as the storm moves to the east with 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 centimeters) of snow possible in some places through Friday, Orrison said.
Along the warmer side of the storm, strong thunderstorms capable of damaging wind gusts and tornadoes were possible Thursday in parts of Mississippi and Alabama, the Storm Prediction Center said.
More than 20 inches (51 centimeters) of snow was reported in the southern Rockies, while more than a foot of snow fell in areas of Illinois, Indiana and Michigan.
The Midwest snowstorm is nothing too unusual, except in some places it was so large that it had a bigger than normal path of intense snow, said Northern Illinois University meteorology professor Victor Gensini. With a warmer climate, people are forgetting what a Midwestern winter had long been like, he said.
“The only amazing winters I’ve been able to experience is through my parents’ photographs of the 1970s,” Gensini, who is 35, said. “This (storm) is par for the course, not only for the past, but winters current.”
Sleet and freezing rain were occurring early Thursday in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and in parts of Oklahoma and Arkansas. More than 100,000 homes and businesses were without power, mostly in Texas, Tennessee and Arkansas, according to the website poweroutage.us, which tracks utility reports.
“Unfortunately we are looking at enough ice accumulations that we will be looking at significant travel impacts,” Orrison said.
Ice began accumulating Thursday in parts of West Tennessee including Memphis, Tennessee, causing power outages and dangerous road conditions during the morning commute. Trees sagged under the weight of ice, resulting in fallen tree limbs and branches. Parked cars had a layer of ice on them and authorities in several communities around Memphis warned of some cars sliding off slick roadways.
Texas had about 70,000 power outages Thursday, far from the more than 4 million outages when the state’s power grid failed during the February 2021 freeze and caused one of the worst blackouts in U.S. history.
The return of subfreezing weather and ice in Texas was unsettling to many residents after last year’s catastrophic outages, but state and local officials stressed that the outrages were local disruptions due to power lines encrusted or downed by ice — not grid failures.
South Bend, Indiana, reported a record snowfall for the date on Wednesday with 11.2 inches (28.5 centimeters), eclipsing the previous record of 8 inches (20.3 centimeters) set on the date in 1908, said Hannah Carpenter, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s office in Syracuse, Indiana.
Once the storm pushes through, she said temperatures will see a big drop, with Friday’s highs mostly in the upper teens followed by lows in the single digits in northern Indiana, along with bone-chilling wind chills.
“It’s definitely not going to be melting real quick here,” Carpenter said Thursday morning.
The frigid temperatures settled into areas after the snowy weather, with Kansas residents awakening to dangerous wind chills of around 15 below zero (26 degrees Celsius below zero). In New Mexico, schools and nonessential government services were closed in some areas Thursday because of the icy roads.
The disruptive storm began Tuesday and moved across the central U.S. on Wednesday’s Groundhog Day, the same day the famed groundhog Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter. The storm came on the heels of a nor’easter last weekend that brought blizzard conditions to many parts of the East Coast.
Airlines canceled nearly 7,000 flights in the U.S. scheduled for Wednesday or Thursday, the flight-tracking service FlightAware.com showed. More than 1,000 flights were canceled Thursday alone at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, and more than 300 were canceled at nearby Dallas Love Field.