A winter storm bringing the triple threat of ice, sleet and snow Tuesday to parts of the South and central US has prompted officials to close roads and schools as they urge people to avoid traveling in dangerous conditions.
About 38 million people from Texas and Oklahoma to as far east as Kentucky and West Virginia are under various forms of winter weather alerts, including those warning of dangerous ice accumulations forecast to make roads a nightmare.
“In addition to potentially hazardous travel conditions, this amount of ice will lead to tree damage and power outages across the hardest-hit regions,” the National Weather Service warned in its forecast Monday.
In Texas, residents in cities including Dallas, San Antonio and Austin can expect icy roads as well as some sleet Tuesday, when heavy rain and flash flooding are also possible in the eastern parts of the state.
Amid such conditions, the governor has requested the state’s emergency management division to increase its resources so it can be ready to respond through Thursday.
The storm has also led several school districts in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and Austin to close Tuesday, and more than 400 flights departing from Texas airports have been cancelled. Multiple roadways in Texas have been shut down due to ice accumulation, according to the state’s transportation department.
As ice began forming on roads in Little Rock, Arkansas, the governor declared a state of emergency Monday and activated the winter weather support teams of the state’s National Guard to be prepared in helping police in their response to the storm.
“I encourage Arkansans who are experiencing winter weather to avoid travel if possible and heed the warnings of local officials,” Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Twitter.
The emergency order directs $250,000 toward discretionary use by the head of the state’s Division of Emergency Management to provide funding for program and administrative costs, the order stated.
“The real enemy is going to be that ice,” said Dave Parker, a spokesperson for the Arkansas Department of Transportation. “This could potentially be a pretty dangerous situation.”
Parker added that majority of the state is expected to be impacted, and the state is treating most major roads.
By late Monday, ice had already spread across grounds in Memphis, Tennessee, and Louisville, Kentucky, as well as Texas, where at least a few car crashes were reported in Austin with no injuries.
The storm is poised to produce a mix of wintry precipitation ranging from rain and sleet to ice and it will hit areas in the southern and central regions in waves through Wednesday.
And while the forecast shows there will be periods of reprieve over the next two days, roads will likely remain dangerously slick throughout the storm as temperatures remain low.
Indeed, Tuesday is expected to be the toughest day for driving as Texas bridges and roads become icy, according to the weather service’s Fort Worth office.
“More widespread freezing rain/sleet is expected Tuesday and Wednesday morning, with worsening travel impacts during this time,” the local weather agency said.
Significant icing of about half of an inch is expected on roads in Austin, San Angelo and Dallas while San Antonio may see up to a tenth of an inch of ice.
Meantime, Texas’ primary electricity provider, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, told CNN it will be able to meet residents’ demand as temperatures plummet.
“We expect sufficient generation to meet forecasted demand and are continuing to monitor forecasts, this week. We are not asking for Conservation at this time. We are informing the public that IF they are experience an outage to reach out to their local power provider,” the agency said in an email.
Elsewhere in the South, up to a half of an inch of ice could glaze roads in Memphis, Tennessee. In the state’s Dyer County, icy conditions led officials to shut down the I-155 bridge, according to the highway patrol.
Meanwhile, Little Rock in Arkansas is forecast to see multiple rounds of ice that could amass up to half an inch.
In neighboring Oklahoma, residents in Oklahoma City are under a winter weather advisory through Wednesday afternoon, with the expectation of seeing up to two tenths of an inch of ice.
Icing up to two-tenths of an inch could be seen in Louisville, Kentucky, while Charleston, West Virginia, can see sleet up to an inch and ice up to a tenth of an inch.