Deadly ice storm cripples roads, threatens 44 million from plains to mid-Atlantic

An ice storm crawling across America's midsection this weekend — threatening about 44 million people from Texas to the Mid-Atlantic — is freezing roadways and creating treacherous driving conditions.

The storm is already being blamed for three deaths. One person died Saturday morning in Missouri after a van carrying 12 people rolled over on a highway north of Kansas City, ejecting the driver. Meanwhile, near Weatherford, Oklahoma, a truck driver died after losing control of his semi on Interstate 40, where icy surfaces caused at least a dozen accidents.

On Friday, a person was killed in a crash on Interstate 55, north of Crystal City, Missouri, amid the poor conditions.

Police in Wichita, Kansas, said two people suffered minor injuries in a 20-car pileup Friday night, one of several accidents caused by the icy roads.

The Kansas Army National Guard had already mobilized in advance of Saturday's storm, designating roughly 200 guardsmen to patrol key roads and help motorists stranded by the weather. The teams of soldiers are providing emergency transportation for law enforcers and other emergency responders, and prepared to make warming stations available at local armories.

Forecasters say as much as an inch of ice is expected to build up on roads throughout Kansas as well as Oklahoma, where a state of emergency remains in place. Ice storm warnings stretch from the Texas panhandle across Missouri and Iowa to Illinois.

Scattered outages have also been reported, including about 2,500 in Springfield, Missouri.

Meanwhile, winter storm watches are in effect in parts of eastern Colorado, Nebraska and Iowa, while freezing rain advisories have been called for the Ohio Valley and the Appalachians, The Weather Channel reported.

"The good news is as we head toward ... (Sunday) night and into Monday, some warmer air tries to move northward, so some places that start off as freezing rain in the weekend should transition back over to rain," said Weather Channel storm specialist Greg Postel.

As a precaution, the NFL has already moved back the noon Sunday playoff game in Kansas City between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Pittsburgh Steelers to after 7 p.m. CT to give enough time for the storm to pass and to clear roads.

Forecasters warn that even as the weather warms up through the holiday weekend, another wave of cold air is right behind.

Outside of the United States, bitterly cold temperatures in Europe this week have been alarming human rights advocates who say refugees and migrants living in destitute conditions are at risk of death, frostbite and illness.

The U.N. refugee agency on Friday urged Greek authorities to speed up the relocation of families during the cold snap. "We are worried," spokesman Adrian Edwards said.

State highway 28 which rings Lake Tahoe is closed by snow at Crystal Bay, California, U.S., January 7, 2017. REUTERS/Bob Strong/Files


Major ice storm bears down on central U.S.

The brunt of an ice storm was expected to roll through the Great Plains and Midwest this weekend after claiming the life of a motorist, causing scattered power outages and wreaking havoc on travel plans for airline passengers and motorists.

Ice, freezing rain and winter storm warnings and advisories remained in effect for Saturday and Sunday from northern Texas, east across parts of the Midwest and into the Washington D.C. area, the Weather Service said.

"Expect a glaze of ice to develop on elevated surfaces including trees, powerlines, bridges and overpasses," the service said. "This will create hazardous driving conditions."

The storm's first known casualty was Tiffany Jackson, 31, of Crystal City, Missouri, who police said lost control on an icy overpass. Her vehicle slid off the road and struck trees, causing her to die at the scene, Missouri State Highway Patrol said.

Forecasters said that ice accumulation from the storm could be more than half an inch (1 cm), snow of up to 3 inches (8 cm) and heavy fog were also in the forecast in parts of region.

Missouri and Oklahoma had declared states of emergency ahead of the storm as transportation officials in those states told motorists to avoid travel.

The Lambert-St. Louis International Airport told passengers to check their airlines as the weather "could potentially impact flights" while Will Rogers Airport in Oklahoma City warned of "multiple delays and cancellations" on Saturday morning.

Local news in Kansas City showed video footage of shoppers rushing through grocery stores stocking up essentials.

"Getting stocked up for the upcoming ice storm and shelves are already empty," Tweeted Valerie Mia Juarez, a journalist in Nebraska, with a photo showing one loaf of bread on an bare shelf at a local Walmart.

The National Football League postponed the start time of a divisional playoff game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Pittsburgh Steelers in Kansas City from around noon local time on Sunday to 7:20 pm, when conditions are expected to ease, the Chiefs said on the team's website.

As of Saturday morning, about 2,500 households and businesses were without power in Texas, Missouri and Oklahoma, utility companies reported.


Deadly ice storm, perhaps worst in a decade, batters nation’s midsection

With Kansas and Missouri in the bull's eye, a winter storm descended on the nation's midsection Saturday, bringing thick ice, dangerous driving conditions and power outages as it stretched its tentacles as far east as the mid-Atlantic.

There was little chance of a letup from the icy onslaught as another round of freezing rain was forecast for Sunday morning, keeping ice warnings in place for the two states, as well as Oklahoma.

Winter storm watches forecast up to three-quarters of an inch of ice and as much as three inches of snow across the central Plains and parts of Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska.

The National Weather Service said freezing rain would continue across a wide swath of north central Oklahoma, potentially bringing an additional 1.5 inches of ice accumulation to cities like Enid and Ponca City west and  northwest of Oklahoma City.

By early afternoon, Aldrich, Mo., reported 0.75 inches of ice; Bartlesville, Oklahoma, registered 0.28 inches; and Mayestown, Ill, had received 0.37 inches, according to weatherbug.com.

Parts of Springfield, Mo., experienced a round of "thunder ice" following lightning strikes amid a buildup of more than a quarter of an inch of ice on trees, fences and parked cars, the Springfield News-Leader reported. The relatively rare phenomenon, which only occurs in especially turbulent winter weather, was also reported as freezing rain fell in Joplin, Mo., the Associated Press reported.

Ice storm warnings were in effect from the Texas Panhandle to southern Illinois, with freezing rain advisories across parts of the Ohio Valley and the central Appalachians, the National Weather Service said. It warned that ice in excess of a half inch "is enough to cause severe travel disruptions and power outages."

Colorful weather service maps showing the hardest-hit areas put Dodge City, Kan., in the deep purple center, with heavy precipitation expected Saturday night into Sunday and ice accumulations up to an inch.

At least three road deaths were blamed on the storm, including two in separate accidents in Missouri and one involving a semi-truck outside Weatherford, Okla. In Western Oklahoma, Interstate 40 was closed in two places because of accidents,  according to the highway patrol.

The governors of Oklahoma and Missouri declared states of emergency, and the National Guard was mobilized in Missouri and Kansas, where some 200 guardsmen patrolled key roads and helped stranded motorists.

Nearly 4,300 homes were without power by mid-morning in Missouri and Illinois as heavy ice accumulation brought down power lines, KSDK-TV reported.

Hundreds of schools were closed Friday in the target areas, as well as several college campuses. St. Louis closed all city operations and braced for what could be its worst ice storm in at least a decade.

In Kansas City, the NFL moved the AFC divisional playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas Chiefs from noon to Sunday evening to allow more time to treat roads and parking lots at Arrowhead Stadium.

Missouri Department of Transportation crews were working 12-hour shifts to treat roads and highways, said Linda Wilson Horn, a MoDOT spokeswoman. She said some of the freezing rain washed the chemicals away as it melted.

“It’ll be a long, constant battle for our crews,” Horn said, according to the Associated Press.

Residents were taking the warnings seriously. Grocery stores were selling out of bread, milk and other necessities, and hardware stores were running out of flashlights, batteries and alternative energy sources.

“They’re grabbing generators, and I’m sold out,” said Raymond Bopp, assistant manager of the Woodward Ace Hardware store in Woodward, Okla., about 140 miles northwest of Oklahoma City.

The threat of sleet and ice will linger in the Plains and mid-Mississippi Valley through Sunday, when it will spread to Nebraska and Iowa during the day and into the upper Midwest at night, according to The Weather Channel.

Widespread power outages, downed trees and havoc on the roadways is likely to continue in the central Plains into Sunday evening.

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