A winter storm bringing snow to Chicago and Boston and freezing rain from Philadelphia and New York has canceled thousands of flights, closed schools and curtailed rail services.
A freezing rain advisory is in effect in New York until 9 a.m. East Coast time and as much as a quarter inch (0.6 centimeter) of ice is possible, said Lauren Nash, a weather service meteorologist in Upton, New York.
“It’s enough to impact the roads and travel,” Nash said. The freezing rain in New York should revert to normal rainfall later today, she said.
Winter storm warnings and advisories, as well as blizzard warnings and ice storm warnings, cover all or parts of 19 U.S. states from Maine to Nebraska, according to the weather service. As much as 20 inches (50.8 centimeters) of snow is expected in Chicago by 6 p.m. today and ice is expected from Philadelphia to suburban New York City.
“This is a major classic synoptic storm ripping through the country,” said Michael Schlacter, of Weather 2000 Inc. in New York. “For the population centers this is one of the more significant ice storms that I have seen in a while.”
As of 1 a.m., 3,951 flights had been canceled, according to FlightAware, a Houston-based tracking service. Yesterday 6,709 flights out of a scheduled 31,000 in the U.S. were scrubbed.
Some Acela trains between New York and Boston will also be cancelled, according to an Amtrak statement.
Schools in Detroit and Chicago have been shut today, according to local websites. Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois will also be closed today, according to its website.
President Barack Obama, briefed yesterday by federal emergency officials, promised support and urged residents to be prepared.
From Michigan to Iowa, including Chicago, people are being urged to stay off the roads because visibility will be limited and snow, at times, may fall at rates of 4 inches per hour, according to the weather service.
“Do not travel unless it is an emergency and even then realize that driving in a blizzard is putting your life at risk,” according to a weather service bulletin. “Visibilities are so poor that motorists could become disoriented and unable to see beyond the hood of their cars.”
Utilities across the U.S. prepared to respond to the storm.
“High winds and snow build-up can cause extensive damage to power lines,” Chicago’s Commonwealth Edison Co. President and Chief Operating Office Anne Pramaggiore said in a statement. “While we can’t prevent outages during such intense weather, our crews are mobilized and prepared to work around the clock.”
In southern Illinois, 33,713 customers were without power as of 12:20 a.m. Chicago time, according to power company Ameren Illinois.
After the storm dissipates, arctic air is expected to drop down into the central part of the country and may even threaten Houston with freezing rain, which occurs when rain falls when surface temperatures are below freezing turning the water to ice when it lands, by the end of the week, according to the weather service.
A hard-freeze warning, meaning pipes could burst and crops may be killed, was issued for most of eastern Texas and western Louisiana, according to the weather service. Wind chill advisories and warnings stretch from the Canadian border to Mexico across the central U.S.
Temperatures in Missouri, Nebraska and Kansas may feel as cold as minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 34 Celsius.)
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