OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A deadly storm system hit a wide swath of the southern United States with swathes of sleet and snow for the third day Wednesday, disrupting 2,300 more flights, leaving hundreds of thousands without power, forcing shutdowns schools and already making treacherous driving conditions worse.
Winter condition watches and warnings were issued for an area extending from West Texas’ border with Mexico through Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, and into western Tennessee and northern Mississippi. Several cycles of mixed precipitation, including freezing rain and sleet, were in store for many areas during the day, meaning some places could be hit multiple times, meteorologists said.
“It actually looks like it’s going to get worse again all over Texas. It’s already a pretty large area of freezing rain in West and Southwest Texas,” said Bob Oravec, a principal meteorologist at the Camp Springs-based National Weather Service. , Maryland.
Oravec said the frigid weather should move northeast across parts of Oklahoma and Arkansas into western Tennessee and northern Mississippi before it begins to dissipate.
“By the end of the day Thursday should be pretty much over, and all the … precipitation will be well downstream in parts of the south and where it will be mostly heavy rain,” Oravec said.
By late Wednesday morning, 2,300 U.S. flights had been canceled, including three-quarters of flights at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and more than two-thirds at Dallas Love Field, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware.com. Dallas-Forth Worth International is American Airlines’ largest hub, and Love Field is a major base for Southwest Airlines.
Many flights were also canceled at other airports, including San Antonio, the Texas capital of Austin, and Nashville, Tennessee, compounding frustrations caused by nearly 2,000 cancellations on Tuesday and about 1,100 on Monday.
Due to the storm, the Detroit Pistons were unable to return home after Monday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks, and the NBA postponed the Pistons’ Wednesday night home game against the Washington Wizards.
Many schools across Arkansas announced they would be closing on Thursday. School systems in Dallas; Austin, Texas; and Memphis, Tennessee has also canceled classes for Thursday.
In Texas, more than 350,000 customers were left without power Wednesday afternoon as trees, laden with ice, leaned over power lines, according to PowerOutage, a website that tracks utility reports.
More than half of those outages occurred in Austin, where the city utility warned residents who had been without power for 10 hours or more that the lights and heat might not come back on until Thursday. Nighttime low temperatures have dropped to 90 degrees in Austin, with a higher chance of freezing rain, according to the National Weather Service. Austin Energy has asked customers to prepare contingency plans and to relocate before dark if necessary.
Pablo Vegas, who heads the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, pledged that the state’s power grid and natural gas supply would be reliable and that there would not be a repeat of the February 2021 blackouts, when the grid was on. verge of total bankruptcy.
As ice and sleet enveloped Memphis, Tennessee, Memphis-Shelby County schools announced they would cancel classes Wednesday due to freezing rain and dangerous road conditions. The school system serves approximately 100,000 students. The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis also closed due to bad weather.
Also in Memphis, freezing weather delayed the funeral service for Tire Nichols, who died following a brutal beating by police during a traffic stop. But chillier weather was approaching from the southwest just before the funeral, which was pushed back a few hours to Wednesday afternoon.
“The third and FINAL round of freezing rain and/or sleet will begin this afternoon,” the National Weather Service’s Memphis office posted on social media Wednesday morning. of Memphis late Wednesday morning, radar showed.
The Dallas School District, which serves about 145,000 students, also canceled classes Wednesday.
Rescuers rushed to hundreds of car crashes across Texas on Tuesday, and Republican Gov. Greg Abbott urged people not to drive. At least six people have died on slippery Texas roads since Monday, including a triple-fatal crash Tuesday near Brownfield, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) southwest of Lubbock.
Two Texas law officers, including a police officer who was hit by a vehicle while investigating an accident on Interstate 45 southeast of Dallas, were seriously injured, authorities said.
In Arkansas, Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders declared a state of emergency on Tuesday due to freezing conditions. Her statement cited the “likelihood of numerous downed power lines” and said road conditions had created a backlog of deliveries from commercial drivers.
Martin reported from Atlanta. Associated Press reporters David Koenig in Dallas; Paul J. Weber in Austin, Texas; and Donna Warder in Washington, DC, contributed to this report.
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