Published On: Wed, Feb 2nd, 2022

Flights canceled as U.S. braces for snow, rain and travel chaos

Over 100 million people were under winter weather alerts stretching over 2,000 miles from New Mexico to Maine Wednesday as a massive winter storm tore through the Plains.

The major storm system is expected to bring heavy snow, freezing rain and travel chaos to states across the country, prompting emergency declarations, school closures and flight cancellations.

More than 1,400 flights within, into and out of the United States were cancelled for Wednesday as of 9 a.m. ET, according to flight tracker FlightAware. A number of airlines, including American, United and Delta Air Lines issued waivers allowing travelers who may be affected by the storm to rebook their trips at no extra cost.

The storm system has been slow-moving, making its way from the east in the Rockies to the Interstate 95 corridor and New England through to Friday, according to the National Weather Service. It’s expected to impact much of the central and northeastern U.S. through Thursday morning, prompting winter weather warnings and school closures.

“This winter storm will bring a variety of winter weather hazards, including heavy snow, sleet, and freezing rain,” the National Weather Service said in a Wednesday update.

According to the weather service, the storm system is expected to be “prolonged with several rounds of winter weather lasting through Thursday for portions of the central U.S. before shifting to the interior Northeast.”

As of early Wednesday evening, 20 inches of snow have fallen in Taos, NM; at least 12 inches had fallen in Boulder, Colo. and Lewistown, Ill.; and just under a foot had fallen in over a dozen other cities across the Plains and Midwest.

A corridor of heavy ice accumulation is also considered likely from Texas through the Ohio River Valley, with ice accumulations of half an inch possible for parts of southeastern Oklahoma, Arkansas, eastern Tennessee, eastern Kentucky southern Ohio and northern West Virginia. 

Ice accumulations of half an inch are possible for parts of southeastern Oklahoma, Arkansas, eastern Tennessee, eastern Kentucky southern Ohio and northern West Virginia.

“We are most concerned about the icing potential which is the worst to drive on and can cause power outages and tree breakage,” the National Weather Service in Forth Worth warned Tuesday evening. “But there’s still uncertainty in the forecast. If it gets colder faster than expected, this would result in less ice and more sleet/snow,” it said.

The weather service warned that for many areas affected by the storm, the combination of snow and ice “may cause hazardous road conditions.”

“Plan now for prolonged hazardous winter weather conditions and disrupted travel,” it warned.

The National Weather Service also warned that 11 million people were under flood watches in the Tennessee Valley, where two to five inches of rain forecast overnight in cities like Nashville, Birmingham and Knoxville could send rivers, creeks and streams surging over their banks.

In anticipation of the storm, the governors of Oklahoma and Missouri have declared states of emergency, while Illinois’ governor has issued a disaster declaration.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also warned residents on Tuesday of potential power outages and impacts to travel on roadways, around a year after a winter freeze saw the state suffer severe power losses.

“There will be thousands upon thousands of miles of roads that will be extraordinarily dangerous,” Abbott warned. “Over the coming few days, the roadways could become very treacherous.”

In a separate tweet, he said officials in Texas were “working around the clock to respond to the winter storm” as he urged residents to stay vigilant and follow official guidance.

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