More than 350,000 Americans are in the dark amid a serious winter storm that has dropped heavy snow and ice and brought down trees and power lines. Double-digit snow totals are widespread across much of the Rockies and Midwest, and expanding into New England, while freezing rain accumulated half an inch thick from parts of Texas through the Tennessee Valley and western Appalachians.
On Friday, the freezing rain was causing new power outages in the Northeast and treacherous roads from the Hudson Valley to Massachusetts.
Frigid air and subzero wind chills have followed in the storm’s wake, prompting wind chill advisories that blanket Texas and the southern Plains.
On the system’s warm side, flash flooding accompanied tornadoes that tore through Alabama on Thursday afternoon, including a twister in the town of Sawyerville, about 30 miles southwest of Tuscaloosa, that killed one person and injured eight others — three critically. Although tornado activity is not expected Friday, a few pockets of flooding remain possible in northwest Georgia.
Some of the worst icing on Thursday was in the Tennessee and Ohio valleys from eastern Arkansas into western Pennsylvania. Shelby County, home to Memphis, was among the hardest-hit areas; tracking website PowerOutage.Us reported more than 120,000 outages as of Friday midday.
As many as 70,000 power outages were reported in Texas on Thursday with large parts of the state coated in ice and snow, including Austin and Dallas. But the number of outages dipped below 20,000 by Friday as the state’s power grid seemed to largely withstand the wintry blast.
Other states hard hit by outages as of midday Friday included Kentucky (10,000 outages), West Virginia (27,000), Ohio (82,000), Pennsylvania (39,000) and New York (58,000) — all because of the icy mix of precipitation.
For a third straight day, the storm resulted in thousands of flight delays and cancellations. The tracking website FlightAware reported nearly 4,000 cancellations and more than 3,000 delays Friday.
The storm’s wrath is now focused on New England, the northern Appalachians and the Northeast, where heavy snow is falling in parts of New York state, Vermont, New Hampshire and western Maine while a slushy slop extends south. An abrupt “flash freeze” will send temperatures plummeting on Friday night, causing any snowy sludge left on the roadways to harden.
The system clears the coast on Saturday, allowing temperatures 20 to 30 degrees lower to spill east in its wake.
Current conditions and the forecast
The freezing line wove through eastern Pennsylvania, the Hudson Valley, central Connecticut and southern Massachusetts. Rain had changed to freezing rain along and north of this line. The National Weather Service issued a bulletin cautioning that “a mix of sleet and freezing rain should continue through much of the day” from northeast Pennsylvania through Massachusetts.
On the north side of Boston, Breanna Pitts, a traffic reporter for affiliate WBZ, tweeted that a “crazy amount of crashes” had occurred Friday morning.
Justin Michaels, a correspondent for The Weather Channel, tweeted: “The Mass is a mess. Ice is building.”
Winter weather advisories were in effect for Boston and surrounding areas.
Around New York City, the temperature fell 18 degrees in one hour as this front came through, from 56 to 38 degrees. Precipitation was predicted to change to freezing rain there in the afternoon and a winter weather advisory was issued for a light glaze of ice. The transition to ice had already occurred northwest of the city.
Given the rain, pretreatment of the roads was impossible, meaning that whatever falls will probably become slick fast. A flash freeze Friday evening will convert any lingering slush into a dangerous rock-hard sheet of ice that will be difficult to remove and make for near-impossible travel.
To the northwest of the sleet and freezing rain, snow continued in interior New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. These areas will see moderate snows that becomes light Friday evening before fading around sunset. Another 4 to 8 inches could fall before precipitation tapers.
Recap: Serious icing glazes Texas, Mid-South
Moderate to heavy freezing rain formed on the northwest side of a stalled cold front draped from the Texas-Louisiana border northeast through northern Kentucky and the Appalachians. That’s where moisture from the south “overran” a shallow lip of frigid air entrenched near the surface, allowing liquid rain to fall before freezing on contact with the ground.
Topping the charts with reported icing was Bonham, Tex., located northeast of Dallas near the Red River, or the Oklahoma border. Bonham had reported 0.75 inches of ice accumulation as of Thursday night. Although precipitation had ended there, it’s likely a number of other 0.75-inch reports will crop up during the coming hours off to the east in Arkansas and western Tennessee.
That’s where a widespread half-inch or more of glaze was reported, particularly in the Interstate 40 stretch from Little Rock to Memphis and within the Mississippi River Valley. A half-inch of ice accretion can add hundreds of pounds of weight to a single tree limb, often leading it to snap and bring down electrical lines.
Here’s a roundup of other reports from across the broader region:
- 0.5 inches, Mulberry, Ark.
- 0.5 inches, Talihina, Okla.
- 0.5 inches, Plano, Tex.
- 0.5 inches, San Angelo, Tex.
- 0.4 inches, McConnelsville, Ohio
- 0.38 inches, Honobia, Okla.
- 0.38 inches, Lewisburg, Miss.
- 0.38 inches, Benton, Ky.
- 0.35 inches, Newburg, Ind.
- 0.3 inches, Nesbit, Miss.
- 0.3 inches, Altamont, Ill.
- 0.25 inches, Preston, Mo.
Recap: Double-digit snow totals
Heavy snow fell farther to the north, where subfreezing temperatures were more stubborn in their occupation of a deeper layer of the atmosphere. That allowed precipitation to remain frozen with no concerns of melting and/or refreezing.
A swath of the Midwest picked up more than a foot of snow, but a strong northwest to southeast cutoff meant snowfall totals varied wildly over a short distance. Chicago’s Midway International Airport tallied 11 inches of snow, but O’Hare, barely a half-hour to the north, logged 5.6 inches. Valparaiso, the seat of Porter County, Ind., wound up with 13.5 inches.
The most snow to fall anywhere from this system was at the Taos Ski Valley in New Mexico, where the instigating ingredients that would later combine into a cross-country snowstorm dropped 37 inches. That was a prelude to what would occur farther east — with the heaviest totals in a stripe from central Illinois through northern Indiana, western New York and Vermont. Here’s an assortment of what fell across the eastern half of the Lower 48:
- 17 inches, Leiters Ford, Ind.
- 12 inches, Denver and Boulder, Colo.
- 12 inches, Peoria, Ill.
- 12 inches, Burlington, Vt.
- 11 inches, Montpelier, Vt.
- 10 inches, Stratton, Maine
- 10 inches, South Bend, Ind.
- 10 inches, Buffalo
- 8 to 12 inches, Springfield, Ill.
- 8 inches, Indianapolis
- 7 inches, Springfield, Mo.
- 7 inches, Detroit
- 6.5 inches, St. Louis
- 6.0 inches, Wichita
- 5 inches, Oklahoma City
- 3.8 inches, Kansas City
- 1.5 inches, Dallas
Jason Samenow contributed to this article.