More than 400,000 homes and businesses were without power in Texas on Thursday as a wicked winter weather system of ice, sleet and snow continued to take its toll across much of the South.
Austin, with more than 150,000 outages, was hit hard. The city’s utility company and the mayor warned residents they could be without lights and heat until later Thursday or Friday.
At least eight people have died on icy, treacherous highways since Monday, including seven in Texas and one in Arkansas. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott urged residents to stay off the roads.
Over 700 flights scheduled for Thursday already had been canceled by the morning, according to the flight tracking service FlightAware.com. The arctic weather has been responsible for thousands of cancellations and delays since Monday.
There was some good news: Forecasters anticipated an end to the icy conditions slamming the South later Thursday.
But farther north, several states bordering Canada were bracing for wind chills that could dip as low as 45 degrees below zero.
In New York and New England, residents also prepared for frigid winds and heavy lake-effect snow that could create hazardous travel conditions across the region.
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Though the ice storm warning has expired across Texas, power outages continued to affect hundreds of thousands across the state Thursday. Outages climbed to more than 418,000 by mid-Thursday morning, according to PowerOutage.us.
Austin Mayor Kirk Watson said at a Thursday news conference that wintry conditions have reminded the city’s residents of the “anxiety and trauma” experienced during the winter storm of February 2021 that killed at least 200 people.
Restoring electricity has been “very challenging” to crews because of the length and nature of the storm, according to Watson.
“We anticipate it’ll be late tomorrow before we have substantially restored power to everyone across the city,” he said.
The National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center forecasted an end Thursday to the damaging ice storm that has impacted Texas to Tennessee as “a final surge of moisture slides eastward.”
Temperatures were expected to rise above freezing in the South by Thursday afternoon, according to AccuWeather senior meteorologist Tom Kines.
Memphis, Tennessee; and Dallas could see temperatures in the mid-30s Thursday, and sunshine was expected to warm the Dallas area to the mid-40s and near 50 degrees on Friday, forecasters said.
However, overnight temperatures could drop below 32 into Friday, and while the change likely won’t bring precipitation, Kines said frozen wet spots could slicken roads Friday morning.
The bulk of the impacts were behind people in the Dallas and Fort Worth area by Thursday morning as precipitation slowly moved away, weather service meteorologist Hunter Reeves said.
“There will still be some slushy spots and many people will see better road conditions, while some are going to see barely any improvement,” Reeves told USA TODAY, adding that more widespread road conditions would begin Friday.
A wind chill warning was in effect Thursday in northern New York, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and parts of Connecticut, according to the weather service. Wind chills could be as low as 50 degrees below zero.
Even ahead of the dangerous temperatures, officials warned that people should keep pets indoors as much as possible and frequently check in on older family members, friends and neighbors.
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An ice storm warning remained in effect Thursday morning in parts of several states, the National Weather Service in Memphis, Tennessee, said.
Officials continued to discourage travel, but people who must drive should keep an extra flashlight and food and water in their vehicles.
The ice storm warning impacted over 3 million people Thursday in parts of Arkansas, southwestern Tennessee, northern Mississippi and Oklahoma.
The National Weather Service office for Dallas/Fort Worth said ice storm warnings were lifted Thursday morning as conditions improved and no advisories remained in effect in the area, though power outages and tree damage were still possible because of ice.
Wind chills could reach as low as 50 degrees below zero.
Officials advised people to wear appropriate winter clothing, including a hat and gloves, when outside.
Contributing: Doyle Rice, USA TODAY; Associated Press