March 30, 2023
Winter storms in southern U.S. lead to fatalities, flight cancellations | CBC News

Winter storms in southern U.S. lead to fatalities, flight cancellations | CBC News

Bands of sleet and snow brought traffic to a standstill across the midsection of the U.S, cancelled thousands of flights and left hundreds of thousands of people without power, and were blamed for six deaths in Texas.

Forecasters are warning of more dangerous road conditions, as winter storms hit for the third day on Wednesday. Watches and warnings stretched from Texas to Tennessee and Mississippi.

Several rounds of mixed precipitation, including freezing rain and sleet, were in store for many areas throughout the day, meaning some regions could be hit multiple times, forecasters said.

“It actually looks like it’s going to be getting worse again across Texas. It is already a pretty big area of freezing rain across western and southwestern Texas,” said National Weather Service lead forecaster Bob Oravec in Camp Springs, Md.

An 18-wheeler lies crumpled off a highway near Austin Texas, due to icy conditions.
Officials investigate an accident involving 18-wheelers in Austin, Texas, during an ice storm on Tuesday. Winter weather is bringing ice to a wide swath of the United States, causing the cancellation of more than 1,600 flights nationwide and knocking out power to thousands of Texans. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman/The Associated Press)

Oravec said the winter weather is expected to move northeastward, across parts of Oklahoma and Arkansas into western Tennessee and northern Mississippi, before tapering.

“By later in the day on Thursday it should be pretty much done and all the … precipitation will be well downstream across parts of the South and where it will be mostly heavy rain,” Oravec said.

Flight cancellations, power outages

By Wednesday morning, a total of 1,897 flights within, into or out of the United States were cancelled, while 750 flights were delayed as of 8.41 a.m. ET, according to flight-tracking website FlightAware.

“This week’s winter storm is having an impact on our operations,” American Airlines Group said in a statement, adding that it proactively cancelled flights and notified passengers.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) warned in a tweet that snowy conditions in Dallas, Fort Worth and Memphis, could delay flights.

“The ongoing winter storm will continue to bring hazardous impacts to north and central Texas through at least early Thursday morning,” the U.S. National Weather Service said in its Dallas-Fort Worth-area forecast discussion.

More than 241,000 power outages were reported in Texas, including nearly 114,000 in the state capital of Austin, according to the website PowerOutage, which tracks utility reports.

An icy highway with cars in Dallas on Jan. 31.
Icy roads are seen in Dallas after sleet coated the pavement with ice on Tuesday. (Liesbeth Powers/The Dallas Morning News/The Associated Press)

Electric Reliability Council of Texas president and CEO Pablo Vegas has vowed that the state’s electrical grid and natural gas supply will be reliable, and there would be no repeat of the February 2021 blackouts, when the grid was on the brink of total failure.

Emergency responders rushed to hundreds of collisions across Texas on Tuesday and Gov. Greg Abbott urged people not to drive.

At least six people have died on slick Texas roads since Monday.

In Arkansas, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders declared a state of emergency Tuesday because of icy conditions. Her declaration cited the “likelihood of numerous downed power lines” and said road conditions have created a backlog of deliveries by commercial drivers.

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