Forecasters predicted that a major winter storm, which already shut off electricity to 350,000 homes and businesses in Texas and the Ohio Valley, would leave Pennsylvania and New England covered in ice and snow on Friday.
On Friday morning, the storm caused flight disruptions at major U.S. hubs, including New York City, Boston, and Dallas.
There was more snow forecast, but it was the ice which threatened to disrupt travel and electricity in the Northeast, according to Rick Otto, National Weather Service meteorologist in College Park, Maryland.
He said that snow is easier to plough than ice.
Otto stated that even after the storm passes to sea on Saturday night, ice and snow are expected to persist through the weekend due to subfreezing temperatures.
According to the weather service, snowfall reports for parts of New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont were as high as a foot Friday morning.
On Thursday, 350,000 homes and businesses in Texas and Ohio lost power due to freezing rain and snow. This was part of a winter storm in which snow and freezing rain weighed down trees and power lines. It also caused a tornado in Alabama that killed three people.
According to poweroutage.us which tracks utility reports, widespread power outages occurred in Memphis, Tennessee. More than 125,000 homes were without power on Friday morning. Nearly 85,000 Ohio homes and businesses were without electricity.
Because roads were icy and temperatures never above freezing, many schools and businesses were closed Friday in the areas that were hit by the wintry weather.
One person was killed by a tornado
Russell Weeden, Hale County Emergency Management director, said that a tornado that struck a rural area in Alabama on Thursday afternoon left one person dead, including a woman he found underneath rubble. He also injured three other people. He said that a home had been severely damaged.
Although rare, tornadoes can occur in winter. Scientists have confirmed that the atmospheric conditions necessary to create a tornado are becoming more intense as the planet heats.
FlightAware.com, a flight tracking service, showed that more than 9,000 flights from the U.S. had been cancelled on Thursday and Friday. This was in addition to more than 2000 cancellations on Wednesday as the storm started.
Officials at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport mobilized for the second consecutive night to help travelers who were left behind by cancellations of flights. According to an airport statement, they provided blankets, diapers, and infant formula to 700 travelers who were left behind by flight cancellations Wednesday night. They also made sure that the airport was available Thursday night to assist customers who might need to remain in the terminals.
The Ohio Valley was particularly affected Thursday with 211 cancellations at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. Nearly all of Thursday’s afternoon and evening flights were cancelled at Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport. UPS made a rare decision to suspend some operations at its Worldport hub at Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport on Thursday.
Many flights were cancelled or delayed at LaGuardia Airport, New York, Boston Logan Airport, and Newark Liberty Airport on Friday.
Crews were busy in Memphis on Friday removing trees and power lines from streets. Those without electricity spent the night at home or sought shelter at hotels or homes with friends and family. Memphis utility and public works officials said that it could take several days before power is restored to the city.
The freezing rain and sleet that had caused ice accumulation on trees — making them sink and losing heavy limbs that fell onto streets, homes, and cars — ended Thursday evening. Residents continued to hear the banging of fallen tree limbs throughout the night.
Officials stated that ice could remain dangerously dangerous for drivers due to freezing temperatures. Robert Knecht, Memphis’ director of public works, stated Thursday evening that there were approximately 225 fallen trees along Memphis’ streets, and that crews were working 16-hour shifts in clearing them.
Knecht stated during an online news conference, “We do anticipate, however, that it will take multiple days to clear the public right-of-way, given the inclement meteorological conditions.”
Texas’ power grid seems to be in good shape
Texas’s return to subfreezing temperatures brought about increased anxiety almost a year after the February 2021 catastrophic freeze that shut down the state’s power grid, resulting in hundreds of deaths and one of the worst blackouts in American history.
The Republican Governor of Texas is facing a new test in the grid. Greg Abbott assured that the grid was holding strong and would have enough power to withstand the storm. Texas experienced about 15,000 outages Friday morning. The earlier numbers were nowhere near the 4 million reported in 2021.
Abbott and officials from the local government said that Thursday’s outages were caused by high winds, icy and downed transmission line and not grid failures. By the close of the day, power had been restored to over half of those who had lost their electricity.
The storm started Tuesday and moved through the U.S. central on Wednesday’s Groundhog Day. This was the same day Punxsutawney Phil, the famous groundhog predicted six more weeks. This storm followed a nor’easter that brought blizzard conditions across much of the East Coast last weekend.