On Wednesday morning, nearly 50 million people woke up under winter alerts stretching from Southern California to New England.
These alerts were ahead of what will be a long-duration storm for many locations, leading to 24 consecutive hours or more of wintry precipitation. A 1,800-mile swath of icing is possible from central Texas into the Northeast.
The threat of Mother Nature’s wrath prompted delays or cancellations of more than 1,100 flights at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport as of Wednesday afternoon, according to FlightAware. The flight-tracking service reported 292 flight delays and 921 cancellations.
American Airlines told The Dallas Morning News that it was getting ahead of the storm in order to avoid last-minute disruptions.
“This week’s winter storm is expected to have a significant impact on our operation, especially in Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW),” an American Airlines spokesperson said.
“The vast majority of impacted flights have been canceled in advance so we could proactively notify and accommodate our customers and avoid last-minute disruptions at the airport.”
Through Wednesday, the significant winter storm will bring a variety of winter hazards, including snow, sleet and freezing rain, from the Rockies and Southern Plains up through the Ohio Valley.
For locations like northern Texas and Oklahoma, the wintry mix will be accompanied by thunder-ice, with lightning occurring with the heaviest areas of freezing rain and sleet.
The area of greatest concern Wednesday will be from the Red River into the Mississippi Valley. That’s where a damaging ice storm is likely to produce 0.25 inches to 0.75 inches or more of ice accumulation which will make travel impossible and lead to trees and power lines down.
On Thursday, the wintry mix will continue across the Southern Plains but also spread into parts of the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys. Snow will break out on the northern side of the storm system across the Midwest and southern Great Lakes. Strong thunderstorms and heavy rainfall will drench the Southeast.
Thursday night into Friday morning, the storm system finally reaches the East Coast, bringing the risk for a wintry mix for places like Philadelphia and New York and heavy snow for New England, including Boston.
All precipitation will finally exit off the Atlantic Coast by Friday evening.
The most damaging side of this storm could be the ice storm. Anywhere from a glaze of ice to 0.75 inches or more of ice will be possible from central Texas up through portions of the Northeast. Cities that could see icing include Dallas, Little Rock, Arkansas, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York and Hartford, Connecticut.
On the cold side of the storm, 3 to 6 inches of snow will stretch from the Midwest into New England with a bullseye of 6 to 12 inches possible from upstate New York to Southern New England. Cities expecting to see accumulating snow include Chicago, Cleveland, Buffalo and Albany, New York, Burlington, Vermont, Portland, Maine and Boston.
And finally, on the warm side of the storm, 1 to 2 inches of rain, locally higher up to 3 inches, will be possible from the Southeast into the Ohio Valley. Rivers and streams are already running high, so there could be some river flooding in addition to urban flooding.
As the massive winter storm traverses the center of the country, it will be sandwiched in between record-setting temperatures on both coasts.
A dozen states across the West could set record cold temperatures on Wednesday due to temperatures 20-40 degrees below average. These include locations like Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Colorado Springs, Colorado.
And 13 states across the East could set record warm temperatures on Wednesday due to temperatures 10-20 degrees above average. These include locations like New Orleans, Jacksonville, Florida, Charleston, South Carolina, and Boston.
Across the middle of the country, 13 million people were under Wind Chill Alerts stretching from the Canadian border to the Texas Panhandle. Here wind chills as cold as 20 to 50 below zero could lead to frostbite in mere minutes.
Antonio Planas contributed.