A massive winter storm walloped the central United States with heavy snow, freezing rain and gusty winds on Wednesday, threatening to make travel dangerous and possibly knocking out power for millions of Americans.
Winter and ice storm warnings and watches were in effect for a wide swathe of the US reaching from Texas and Colorado up through the Midwest and into northern New York until Friday morning, the National Weather Service (NWS) said.
The blast of frigid weather, which began arriving on Tuesday night in the central US, put a long stretch of states from New Mexico and Colorado to Maine under winter storm warnings and watches.
“For a lot of areas, we are going to be looking at significant amounts of snowfall and also ice,” said Andrew Orrison, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in College Park, Maryland.
The storm had already dropped heavy snow over much of Kansas and parts of Missouri by early Wednesday, with weather forecasters warning that the snow was only expected to intensify throughout the day. More than 30cm (a foot) of snow was expected in parts of central Missouri and Michigan, and up to 30cm (a foot) of snow could fall Wednesday and Thursday in central and northeastern Illinois.
A large-scale winter storm will impact the Central, Eastern and Southern US over the next 2-3 days. Heavy snow is expected from the southern Rockies to northern New England, while heavy ice accretion is likely from TX to PA.https://t.co/VyWINDk3xP for the latest, local info. pic.twitter.com/pEuE2Kk8Yz
— National Weather Service (@NWS) February 2, 2022
Southern spots may see a mixture of snow and freezing rain that will rapidly deteriorate travel conditions on Wednesday, the NWS said. Winds gusts as high as 64km/h (40 mph) were also forecast.
“Expect power outages and tree damage due to the ice. Travel could be impossible. The hazardous conditions could impact the morning or evening commute,” the service said in its advisory for Memphis.
More than 100 million people are under winter weather alerts that stretch from the Rockies to New England, CNN reported.
Some 2,400 flights were cancelled as of Wednesday morning, according to Flightaware.com. More than 400 flights alone were cancelled to and from the two major airports in Chicago, where as much as a foot of snow was in the forecast for parts of the metro area.
In northwest Indiana, heavy snow was creating hazardous travel conditions, particularly on highway ramps, Indiana State Police warned urging people not to travel if they do not have to.
Areas south of the heavy snow were expected to see freezing rain, with the heaviest ice predicted for Kentucky and Tennessee.
The storm forced dozens of school districts in the region to cancel classes on Wednesday.
Extremely cold air caused by Arctic high pressure that is forecast to descend over the upper Midwest on Wednesday will send temperatures plummeting below average in some areas, the NWS added.
The latest storm comes days after fierce winter weather engulfed the northeastern US, dropping more than 60cm (two feet) of snow on some areas and packing high winds, prompting thousands of flight cancellations and curtailing access to the roads in some states.
Wednesday also marked the quirky US holiday Groundhog Day, when the most famous groundhog in the world, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow in an early morning ceremony in Pennsylvania, predicting six more weeks of winter.