Winter storm causes widespread power outages and major travel disruptions
A brutal winter storm closed interstate highways from Arizona to Wyoming on Wednesday, trapped drivers in cars, knocked out power to hundreds of thousands and triggered Southern California’s first blizzard warning in decades – and the worst will not be over for several days.
Few places were spared the savage weather, including some at the opposite extreme: Long-standing records were broken in cities across the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Southeast.
More than 785,000 customers nationwide were without power Wednesday evening, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks utility outages. Of these, more than 585,000 were in Michigan and 118,000 in Illinois.
The winter mix has hit the northern United States hard, shutting down schools, offices and even shutting down the Minnesota Legislature. Travel was difficult. The weather contributed to more than 1,600 flight cancellations in the United States, according to the FlightAware tracking service. More than 400 of them were expected to arrive in or depart from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. More than 5,900 other flights have been delayed across the country.
At Denver International Airport, Taylor Dotson, her husband, Reggie, and their 4-year-old daughter, Raegan, faced a two-hour flight delay to Nashville on their way home to Belvidere, Wash. Tennessee.
Reggie Dotson was in Denver for a job interview as an airline pilot.
“I think it’s kind of funny that we’ve had those kinds of delays when that’s what he’s planning on doing now as a career,” Taylor Dotson said.
The roads were just as bad.
In Wyoming, rescuers attempted to reach people trapped in vehicles, but high winds and blowing snow created an “almost impossible situation” for them, said Sgt. Jeremy Beck of the Wyoming Highway Patrol.
“They know their locations, it’s just hard for them to get them,” he said.
The Wyoming Department of Transportation posted on social media that roads through much of the southern part of the state were impassable.
In the Pacific Northwest, high winds and heavy snowfall in the Cascade Mountains prevented search teams from reaching the bodies of three climbers killed in an avalanche on Washington’s Colchuck Peak over the weekend . Two experts from the Northwest Avalanche Center were on the scene Wednesday to determine if conditions would allow a recovery attempt later this week.
Strong winds were the biggest problem in California, knocking down trees and power lines. As of Wednesday night, more than 42,000 customers across the state were without power, according to PowerOutage.us.
A one-year-old child was seriously injured Tuesday night when a redwood tree slammed into a house in Boulder Creek, a community in the Santa Cruz Mountains south of San Francisco, KTVU reported.
For the first time since 1989, a blizzard warning was issued for mountains in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, in effect from 4 a.m. Thursday to 4 p.m. Saturday, the National Weather Service said.
“Virtually everyone in California will be able to see snow from a vantage point later this week if they look in the right direction (i.e. towards the highest nearby hills),” Daniel Swain said. , a climatologist at UCLA. tweeted.
A stretch of more than 200 miles of Interstate 40 from central Arizona to the New Mexico line was closed due to snow, rain and wind gusts of up to 80 mph. More than 8,000 customers were without power in Arizona.
In the northern United States – an area used to heavy snowfall – snowfall could be heavy. More than 18 inches could accumulate in parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin, the National Weather Service said Wednesday night. According to the weather service, the largest snow event ever recorded in the Twin Cities was 28.4 inches from October 31 to November 3, 1991.
Temperatures could dip as low as minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit on Thursday and minus 25 F on Friday in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Wind chill can drop to minus 50 F, said Grand Forks meteorologist Nathan Rick.
Wind gusts can reach 80 mph in western and central Minnesota, resulting in “extensive blowing snow and snow drift with whiteout conditions in open areas,” the weather service said.
The weather even prompted about 90 churches in western Michigan to cancel Ash Wednesday services, WZZM-TV reported.
“We are preparing for what will likely be one of the biggest snowstorms in Minnesota history,” St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter said at a press conference Tuesday.
The storm will head for the East Coast later this week. Places that do not receive snow can receive dangerous amounts of ice. Forecasters expect up to a half inch of ice in parts of southern Michigan, northern Illinois and some eastern states.
The potential ice storm worries power company officials. Nearly 1,500 line workers are ready to be deployed if ice causes outages, said Matt Paul, executive vice president of distribution operations for Detroit-based DTE Electric. He said half an inch of ice could cause hundreds of thousands of outages.
Half an inch of ice covering a wire “is like having a small grand piano on that single span of wire, so the weight is important,” Paul said.
As the northern United States weathered the winter blast, National Weather Service meteorologist Richard Bann said some cities in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast had set new high temperatures of several degrees.
The high in Lexington, Kentucky, hit 76F, breaking the Feb. 22 mark of 70F set 101 years ago. Nashville, Tennessee, hit 78 F, topping the 1897 record by 4 degrees. Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Atlanta and Mobile, Alabama were among many other places with records.