A winter storm that dumped sleet and heavy snow on a wide swath of the central United States this week has left hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses without power.
More than 330,000 customers were without power from Texas, Arkansas, and Tennessee up through Ohio and into New York, Poweroutage.us showed on Friday, after an ice storm downed power lines and trees across the area.
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Freezing rain and snow weighed down tree limbs and encrusted power lines, and brought rare measurable snowfall and hundreds of power outages to parts of the southern state Texas.
Power restoration could take days, said Gale Carson, the utility’s spokeswoman. “It’s not going to be a quick process,” she said.
The major storm comes nearly a year after a catastrophic freeze in Texas in February 2021 that buckled the state’s power grid for days, leaving millions without power and leading to hundreds of deaths. It became one of the worst blackouts in US history.
Facing a new test of Texas’ grid, Republican Governor Greg Abbott said it was holding up and on track to have more than enough power to get through the storm. Texas had about 20,000 outages on Friday morning, nowhere close to the 4 million reported in 2021.
Abbott and local officials said Thursday’s power outages were due to high winds or icy and downed transmission lines, not grid failures.
Six people were taken to a hospital after a 16-vehicle crash on a Memphis highway. Two were in critical condition, the Memphis Fire Department said on Twitter. Four others suffered non-critical injuries.
MFD crews responded to a Multi-vehicle MVA @ 2800 Austin Peay Hwy. 16 vehicles involved, 6 transported to the ER, 2 critical, 4 noncritical. MATA Bus on the scene to keep people warm. Avoid the area and expect significant delays. pic.twitter.com/AzXRfj5sm4
— Memphis Fire Department (@MEM_Fire) February 4, 2022
Sub-freezing temperatures meant the ice would likely remain for days, making driving dangerous, officials said. Robert Knecht, Memphis’ public works director, said Thursday evening that there were 225 downed trees on city streets and that crews were working 16-hour shifts to clear them.
“We do foresee, though, that it’s going to take multiple days, given the inclement weather conditions, to clear the public right of way,” Knecht said.
Storm conditions also caused major disruptions for travelers across the country as airlines canceled more than 9,000 flights scheduled for Thursday and Friday in the US, FlightAware.com showed. More than 2,000 flights were cancelled Wednesday as the storm began.
More snow was forecast, but it was the ice that threatened to wreak havoc on travel and electric service in the Northeast before the storm heads out to sea late Friday and Saturday, said Rick Otto, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in College Park, Maryland.
“Snow is a lot easier to plow than ice,” he said.
The disruptive storm began Tuesday and moved across the central US on Wednesday’s Groundhog Day, the same day the famed groundhog Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter.