As a large section of the United States braced for a massive winter storm that was likely to put millions of Americans in the path of heavy snow and freezing rain, airlines canceled hundreds of flights, governors warned citizens to stay off the roads, and schools closed their doors.
A large stretch of states from New Mexico to Vermont were placed under winter storm warnings and watches as a result of the impending blast of chilly weather, which was due to arrive Tuesday night. Following a violent nor’easter that delivered blizzard conditions to several parts of the East Coast last weekend, more than a foot of snow was expected in Michigan.
Marty Rausch, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in College Park, Maryland, said, “It will be a very nasty system that will make travel extremely difficult.”
The storm’s forecasted path reached as far south as Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott defended the state’s preparedness nearly a year after a disastrous freeze crippled the state’s electrical infrastructure, resulting in one of the worst blackouts in US history. The prediction does not call for the same lengthy and very cold temperatures as the storm in February 2021, and the National Weather Service has predicted that the coming cyclone will be less severe this time around for Texas.
“No one can promise” that demand on the electrical grid would not produce disruptions, Abbott said on Tuesday. “However, we will try to ensure that power is maintained throughout the state, and we are prepared to do so.”
Abbott had made a promise for the winter in November, telling Austin television station KTBC, “I can guarantee the lights will be on.”
Thousands of miles of Texas roadways will become “extraordinarily unsafe” in the coming days, according to Abbott, whose handling of last year’s blackouts is a main line of attack for Democrats as the Republican seeks a third term in 2022. Although the forecast for this week is below freezing, energy experts say it should not pose a problem for Texas’ grid.
“The issue has always been whether the electricity would stay on if we had a repetition of last year? And this is nothing like last year,” said Doug Lewin, an Austin-based energy analyst who has criticized Texas’ reaction to the blackouts as inadequate.
According to the flight-tracking service FlightAware.com, more than 1,000 flights in the United States were canceled on Wednesday, with more than half of them being canceled in St. Louis. Southwest Airlines stated Tuesday that it will cease all flight operations at St. Louis Lambert International Airport on Wednesday and at its Dallas Love Field hub on Thursday in order to keep ahead of the weather.
Southwest spokesperson Dan Landson stated, “Around the country, we’re intending to run a limited or reduced schedule from several locations in the line of the storm, but we’ll make modifications to the schedule as needed.”
As school districts and institutions switched programs to online or canceled them completely, Missouri Governor Mike Parson declared a state of emergency.
More than 100 departing flights were also canceled at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, while airports in Kansas City and Detroit were also canceling more flights than normal.
As the central area of the state braces for heavy snow, ice, and severe wind gusts, Illinois lawmakers postponed their three scheduled days of session this week.
The National Weather Service predicted 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm) of snow in sections of the Rockies and Midwest by Thursday morning, as well as thick ice from Texas to the Ohio Valley.
The National Weather Service predicted 8 to 14 inches (20 to 36 cm) of snow in areas of Michigan on Wednesday and Thursday. That includes Detroit, where the mayor declared snow emergency routes and municipal personnel were scheduled to salt and plough main highways in 12-hour shifts.
As the winter storm approaches, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt has issued a statewide state of emergency. This removes the restrictions on the size and weight of big trucks hauling goods and supplies for disaster relief and power restoration. For seven days, the declaration would be in force.
According to an ice index used by the National Weather Service, the event is not expected to cause large-scale power outages in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where up to 7 inches (18 centimeters) of snow and sleet is forecast but little ice, emergency management director Joe Kralicek said the event is not expected to cause large-scale power outages.
“We might see some power outages,” Kralicek said, “but it’s also suggesting that they’ll be restricted in breadth, kind, and length.”
Teams are trying to shift homeless individuals into shelters ahead of nightly lows forecast to plunge into the single digits by Friday night, according to Becky Gligo, director of the organization Housing Solutions in Tulsa.