More than 9,000 flights canceled as major US storm brings snow and ice | US weather

A major winter storm that already cut electric power to about 350,000 homes and businesses from Texas to the Ohio Valley was set to leave Pennsylvania and New England glazed in ice and smothered in snow on Friday, forecasters said.

A foot of snow was expected to accumulate in northern New York and northern New England.

The New York governor, Kathy Hochul, warned residents to stay home if possible to avoid ice-coated roadways and the threat of falling tree limbs in the Hudson Valley and Capital regions.

“We’re not out of the danger zone yet,” Hochul said. “The weather is wildly unpredictable.”

Along with the snow, ice has threatened to wreak havoc on travel and electric service in the north-east before the storm heads out to sea late Friday and Saturday, said Rick Otto, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in College Park, Maryland.

“Snow is a lot easier to plow than ice,” he said.

About 350,000 homes and businesses lost power from Texas to Ohio on Thursday as freezing rain and snow weighed down tree limbs and encrusted power lines, part of a winter storm that caused a deadly tornado in Alabama, dumped more than a foot of snow in parts of the midwest and brought rare measurable snowfall and hundreds of power outages to parts of Texas.

The highest totals of power outages blamed on icy or downed power lines were concentrated in Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas and Ohio, but the path of the storm stretched further from the south and north-east on Thursday. Some schools and universities across the region closed on Friday as a result of poor weather conditions.

Along the warmer side of the storm, in western Alabama, the Hale county emergency management director, Russell Weeden, told WBRC-TV a tornado that hit a rural area on Thursday afternoon killed one person, a woman he found under rubble, and critically injured three others. A house was heavily damaged, he said.

With many schools closed, kids took advantage of the snowy weather to enjoy themselves, but a fun outing turned tragic in Oklahoma where a 12-year-old boy was killed while sledding on Thursday. Police said on Friday they were investigating the hit-and-run crash in the Tulsa suburb of Broken Arrow.

Tornadoes in the winter are unusual but possible, and scientists have said the atmospheric conditions needed to cause a tornado have intensified as the planet warms.

More than 20in (51cm) of snow was reported in the southern Rockies, while more than a foot of snow fell in areas of Illinois, Indiana and Michigan.

The flight-tracking service showed more than 9,000 flights in the US scheduled for Thursday or Friday had been canceled, on top of more than 2,000 cancellations on Wednesday as the storm began.

For a second straight night, Dallas Fort Worth international airport officials mobilized to accommodate travelers stranded at the American Airlines hub overnight by flight cancellations.

In the Pittsburgh area, commuter rail service was halted on Friday when a power line went down, trapping cars at a Port Authority of Allegheny county rail yard.

Most of the homes and businesses without power on Friday were in Tennessee and Ohio, according to the website, which tracks utility reports. Early Friday, about 131,000 Tennessee customers were without power, including more than 125,000 in the Memphis area.

Meantime, almost 83,000 were without power in Ohio early on Friday.

In Texas, the return of sub-freezing weather brought heightened anxiety nearly a year after February 2021’s catastrophic freeze that buckled the state’s power grid for days, leading to hundreds of deaths in one of the worst blackouts in US history.

Facing a new test of Texas’s grid, the Republican governor, Greg Abbott, said it was holding up and on track to have more than enough power to get through the storm. Texas had about 15,000 outages on Friday morning, and earlier totals came nowhere close to the 4m outages reported in 2021.

Abbott and local officials said Thursday’s outages were due to high winds or icy and downed transmission lines, not grid failures. Power had been restored by the end of the day to more than half of those who lost power.

The storm began on Tuesday and moved across the central US 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.

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