- The Washington Times - Monday, February 15, 2021

More than 150 million people — nearly half the U.S. population — were under a winter weather advisory Monday, as meteorologists warned of power outages, icy roads and below-freezing temperatures.

Winter storm warnings stretched from the south-central U.S. to the Northeast, with weather emergency declarations in Alabama, Oklahoma, Kansas, Kentucky and Texas.

The disruptive snow and ice accumulations across the south-central region were due to strong Arctic high pressure contributing to subfreezing temperatures and an active storm track dropping precipitation from coast-to-coast, the National Weather Service (NWS) said.

In Texas, rotating power outages began early Monday, leaving hundreds of thousands without electricity for short periods as temperatures dipped below freezing. More than 2.7 million people in Texas were in the dark late Monday morning, according to PowerOutage.us, making up the bulk of the nearly 3.2 million customers without electricity.

“Things will likely get worse before they get better,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, the top elected official in the county of nearly 5 million people around Houston. 

George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston will stay closed until at least 1 p.m. Tuesday while the city’s William P. Hobby Airport will stay closed through noon Tuesday. The Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport in Mississippi canceled almost all of its flights Monday.

About 3,200 flights heading into or out of the U.S. were canceled as of Monday afternoon, according to FlightAware.com.

In Louisiana, state police said they had investigated almost 75 crashes due to ice on streets, bridges and overpasses, and urged drivers to stay off the roads.

The NWS predicted a snow-and-wintry mix to stop in the Southern Plains on Monday morning, but warned of “bitterly cold temperatures” that would limit melting and cause dangerous road conditions.

A large swath of the central and southern Plains could experience temperature anomalies that are 25 to 45 degrees below normal Tuesday, similar to Monday’s forecast. The NWS said areas between the Rockies and Appalachians will keep experiencing “teeth-chattering” cold, with lows in the -20s and -10s for the Northern and Central Plains and the Upper and Middle Mississippi Valley.

“Hundreds of daily low maximum and minimum temperatures have been/will be broken during this prolonged ‘polar plunge’, with some February and even all-time low temperature records in jeopardy,” the NWS said.

Many towns and cities reported record low temperatures as an Arctic chill migrated through the Plains: Hibbing, Minnesota, reported a low of -38 degrees Fahrenheit on Monday, surpassing 1939’s record of -32 degrees. Valentine, Nebraska, hit a record low of -33 degrees Fahrenheit, beating a 2007 record of -28 degrees.

Numerous places in Texas set record lows, including Amarillo, which hit -10 degrees Monday. It’s previous record was -6 degrees in 1895.

Wind chill warnings stretched from the Southern Plains to the Ohio Valley. Eastern Colorado recorded wind chills of -15 and -25 degrees paired with bitter cold, the NWS in Pueblo, Colorado, tweeted Monday. A wind chill advisory has been issued until Tuesday morning.

Between 6 to 12 inches of snowfall was forecast from the Ohio Valley and the eastern Great Lakes to northern New England.

The NWS also predicted freezing rain would create more than a tenth of an inch of ice from far east Texas to southern New England. Most ice storm warnings are in effect through Tuesday for portions of West Virginia, Alabama, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, with some projected ice and sleet accumulation of up to an inch.

Meteorologists forecast a quarter to half an inch of ice in parts of the Lower Mississippi Valley and the mid-South, causing treacherous road conditions, significant tree damage and power outages.

In the West, about 1 to 2 feet of snowfall is expected in the Cascades and Northern Rockies through Tuesday, according to the NWS, with avalanche warnings in place for parts of Utah. Seattle reported more than 12 inches of snow over the weekend, The Seattle Times reported. The Washington State Department of Transportation on Monday conducted avalanche control for both Stevens and Snoqualmie Passes.

The lower elevations of the Pacific Northwest also could see more wintry weather. The NWS forecasted this storm system will hit South Central U.S. mid-week.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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