Winter ice storm: 2 killed in crashes in Texas as millions across the South and central US brace for ice storm




CNN
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A winter storm bringing the triple threat of ice, sleet and snow Tuesday to parts of the South and central US has prompted officials to close roads and schools as they urge people to avoid traveling in dangerous conditions.

More than 40 million people from southeastern New Mexico to West Virginia are under various forms of winter weather alerts, including warnings of dangerous ice accumulations that are already making roads a nightmare, particularly in Texas, where roadways across the state have been shut down as first responders fan out to help motorists.

One person has already been confirmed dead in a 10-car pileup in south Austin, according to the Austin Fire Department. A second person was killed in Arlington, Texas, when their vehicle rolled over, Arlington police said.

And northeast of the city, two people involved in a multivehicle collision along Highway 130 were taken to a local hospital with life-threatening injuries after going over the side of an overpass bridge, per Austin-Travis County EMS.

One of the victims had exited their vehicle before being struck by a car and thrown off the bridge, Capt. Darren Noak said, while the other saw a vehicle sliding toward them and jumped off the bridge to avoid being hit.

FOLLOW LIVE UPDATES: Millions in the South and central US brace for ice storm

Aside from the hazardous travel conditions, the National Weather Service warned in its forecast Monday that the ice storm would “lead to tree damage and power outages across the hardest-hit regions.”

Cities under ice storm warnings include Memphis, Tennessee, and Little Rock, Arkansas, while a slew of Texas cities – among them Dallas, San Antonio, San Angelo and Waco – are under winter storm warnings.

Freezing rain is already being reported across the South Tuesday morning, with ice accumulations of one-tenth of an inch to three-tenths of an inch recorded in parts of Arkansas, Texas and Kentucky since Monday.

The heaviest ice accumulation is forecast across large portions of Texas, which could see one- to three-quarters of an inch through Thursday morning. One-quarter inch of ice is possible across a wider swath of the region, including southern Oklahoma, Arkansas, northwestern Mississippi and parts of Tennessee.

Interstate 40 and Highway 70 are very icy and driving conditions are extremely hazardous.

Here’s what to expect throughout the day:

• Oklahoma City will see brief icing Tuesday morning, while the afternoon will bring significant icing to central Texas, central Arkansas and western Tennessee.

• Texas will be dealing with widespread icy conditions, with the heaviest accumulation likely coming Tuesday afternoon into Wednesday morning. Drivers in Dallas, San Antonio and Austin can expect dangerous conditions on roads.

• Residents in Oklahoma City are under a winter weather advisory through Wednesday afternoon, with the expectation of seeing up to two-tenths of an inch of ice.

• Icing up to two-tenths of an inch may also be seen in Louisville, Kentucky, while Charleston, West Virginia, may see sleet up to an inch and ice up to a tenth of an inch.

• The first wave of freezing rain will begin to weaken as it moves toward West Virginia by late morning.

An icy mix covers Highway 114 on Monday in Roanoke, Texas.

Since Monday, EMS crews in the Dallas-Fort Worth area have responded to at least 142 traffic accidents, including 16 rollover crashes, according to MedStar, a regional EMS authority. In Austin, the fire department has responded to at least 19 traffic accidents stemming from ice on the roads since midnight, it said on Twitter early Tuesday.

In Texas, the governor asked the state’s emergency management division to increase its resources so it can be ready to respond through Thursday, while the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, said it expected to “meet forecasted demand” – a signal the utility, which accounts for about 90% of the state’s electricity, aims to avoid a repeat of the massive power outages that left millions freezing for days during a winter storm two years ago.

Several school districts in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and Austin are closed Tuesday and more than 400 flights departing from Texas airports have been canceled.

In Arkansas, the governor declared a state of emergency Monday and activated the winter weather support teams of the state’s National Guard to be prepared to help respond to the storm.

“I encourage Arkansans who are experiencing winter weather to avoid travel if possible and heed the warnings of local officials,” Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Twitter.

The emergency order directs $250,000 toward discretionary use by the head of the state’s Division of Emergency Management to provide funding for program and administrative costs, the order stated.

“The real enemy is going to be that ice,” said Dave Parker, a spokesperson for the Arkansas Department of Transportation. “This could potentially be a pretty dangerous situation.”

Most of the state is expected to be impacted, and the state is treating most major roads, Parker added.

The wintry conditions have also prompted more than 1,000 flight cancellations within, into, or out of the US, including more than 400 flights departing from Texas airports, according to flight tracking site FlightAware.

The storm is poised to hit areas in the southern and central regions in waves through Wednesday.

And while the forecast shows there will be periods of reprieve over the next two days, roads will likely be dangerously slick throughout the storm as temperatures remain low.

Tuesday is expected to be the toughest day for driving as Texas bridges and roads become icy, according to the weather service’s Fort Worth office.

“More widespread freezing rain/sleet is expected Tuesday and Wednesday morning, with worsening travel impacts during this time,” the local weather agency said.

An icy mix covers Highway 114 on Monday in Roanoke, Texas.

Significant icing of about half of an inch is expected on roads in Austin, San Angelo and Dallas. while San Antonio may see up to a tenth of an inch of ice.

Meantime, Texas’ primary electricity provider, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, told CNN it will be able to meet residents’ demand as temperatures plummet.

“We expect sufficient generation to meet forecasted demand and are continuing to monitor forecasts, this week. We are not asking for Conservation at this time. We are informing the public that IF they … experience an outage to reach out to their local power provider,” the agency said in an email.

In Dyer County, Tennessee, icy conditions led officials to shut down the Interstate 155 bridge, according to the highway patrol.





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