Ice, snow, bitter cold hits millions as major storm pummels swaths of countryFebruary 15, 2021
Vehicles work to clear an intersection during a winter storm Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021, in Oklahoma City.
Sue Ogrocki | AP
More than 140 million Americans in 26 states were under some sort of winter advisory heading into Monday as a major winter storm swept through the southern Plains.
The storm, which has already caused power outages and a number of pileups on icy roads, was expected to travel up the Northeast through Tuesday, bringing heavy snow, ice and freezing temperatures, the National Weather Service said. Six inches to a foot of snow was forecast to stretch from the mid-Mississippi to Ohio Valleys, across the lower Great Lakes and into northern New England, according to the service.
It also warned about more power outages and significant travel disruptions across much of the southern Plains, as well as “bitterly cold air” that can result in “dangerous or life-threatening wind chills.”
At least parts of all 254 counties in Texas were under either a winter storm watch or winter storm warning over the weekend. As of 5:45 a.m. ET, 1.5 million people in Texas were experiencing power blackouts.
The weather was affecting operations at airports across the area, with more than 760 flights canceled at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, amid a holiday weekend.
The first winter storm watch in a decade was issued for Brownsville, Texas. At 3,360 days, they had the longest streak of any National Weather Service office without one.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the flow of electric power in the state, said it was experiencing record-breaking electric demand due to the extreme cold temperatures that have gripped Texas.
In a statement Sunday night, President Joe Biden declared an emergency in Texas and ordered federal assistance to aid state and local response efforts.
The extreme cold dips far into Texas with more than 60 daily record low temperatures on Monday and again on Tuesday in the central U.S., NBC meteorologist Janessa Webb said.
“Records could be smashed by a couple of degrees, which is impressive for lows,” she added. “There will be slow improvement in the cold Wednesday through Friday. The cold is really concentrated in the middle of the country, with the coasts being no more than 5-10 degrees below average.”
Webb said Dallas and Houston will stay under winter storm warnings until Monday night, with snow accumulations of up to 4 inches and 2 inches respectively.
Texas governor Greg Abbott, along with Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt and Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson, have activated National Guard units to assist state agencies with tasks including rescuing stranded drivers.
Winter storm warnings will be in effect until Tuesday in Memphis, Chicago, Indianapolis, and Cleveland, which will see up to 12 inches of snow.