Winter storm: Power outages, flights canceled amid snow, freezing rain, ice

A sprawling winter storm that has forced schools to close, knocked out power and massively disrupted road and air travel will continue to hit the Central, Eastern and Southern US over the next few days, forecasters warn. Winter storm and ice warnings were issued for over 110 million people from New Mexico to Canada.

Driving the news: Multiple governors have declared states of emergency, as heavy snow and freezing rain pummeled much of the US Some regions faced damaging ice accumulations. On the warm side of the storm, thunderstorms spawned tornadoes in Alabama Thursday, killing at least one person.

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The big picture: Thursday was one of the worst days for air travel this year, with some 4,700 US flights canceled. Over 3,500 others scheduled for Friday were also canceled, per flight tracking site FlightAware.

  • Power outages due to ice accumulating on trees and power lines were escalating across several states, particularly Texas, Tennessee and Kentucky.

By the numbers: Over 138,000 customers were without power in Tennessee, mainly in Memphis, early Friday, according to tracking site poweroutage.us. More than 82.00 others in Ohio and nearly nearly 28.00 in West Virginia also had no electricity.

State of play: This is a long-duration event, with conditions worsening throughout Thursday, particularly in parts of Kentucky and Tennessee, where temperatures at ground level are below freezing, but warmer air is in place aloft, causing rain to fall and freeze on contact with any surface .

meanwhile, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas CEO Brad Jones told the Texas Tribune he expected to see electricity demand peak at record levels at early Friday — surpassing that experienced during last year’s deadly winter storm.

  • He added ERCOT had a “much larger cushion of power available to the grid” and should cope. By Friday morning, nearly 16,000 customers were without power.
  • A major factor in last year’s widespread outages during an anomalous cold snap was preexisting shutdowns of natural gas plants, which left little wiggle room once failures of infrastructure occurred as a result of the cold.

For the record: Lewistown, Ill., saw about 14 inches of snowfall on Wednesday, and the National Weather Service tweeted that another round of snow was slamming the region on Thursday morning.

  • “At least 6 to 10 inches of new snow is possible across parts of the Midwest, including St. Louis, Indianapolis, Toledo and Detroit through Thursday,” the Washington Post notes.

Threat level: “The expansive winter storm will shift into the Northeast bringing the heavy snow, sleet, and freezing rain,” the NWS warned in a Friday update.

  • “The locations previously impacted by snow and/or ice from this storm will experience below freezing temperatures into the weekend which may prolong hazardous winter weather conditions and disrupted travel.”

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Editor’s note: This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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