A winter storm was hitting vast areas east of the Rockies Sunday, after having left hundreds of thousands of people in Texas and Arkansas without power.
"What's happening across most of the country is we're getting a very early taste of winter," Mike Muscher, a National Weather Service meteorologist, told Reuters. "This is something you'd typically see in January or February."
The wave of icy and dangerous weather was spreading eastward to Virginia and up to New England on Sunday through Monday. New York City's Department of Sanitation issued a "snow alert" for Sunday.
At the height of the storm, some 267,000 electricity outages were reported in Texas, according to utility provider Oncor. That number was down to about 75,000 late on Saturday, and Oncor said it hoped to restore power to "nearly all" of its customers by Sunday night.
Bob Nations Jr., director of the emergency operations command center for the Memphis area, warned that ice coating roads, bridges and overpasses have been behind several multi-vehicle crashes. He advised drivers to be extremely cautious, especially on bridges and overpasses.
Tony Gutierrez / AP
Ice covered vehicles sit in a automotive dealer lot Saturday in Lewisville, Texas.
Snow was expected throughout the Mid-Atlantic, followed by sleet and freezing rain creating “slick travel conditions and the possibility of power outages,” said Chris Dolce, a meteorologist at the Weather Channel.
“Travel delays are probably the biggest human impact,” he said. “If you are in an affected area, stay indoors. Don’t risk traveling if you don’t have to. Wait until the roads get treated and taken care of.”
In Virginia, state Emergency Management spokeswoman Laura Southard said the storm had the potential to be an "historic ice event."
"This forecast is very concerning to us," Southard told The Associated Press on Saturday. "I've worked multiple disasters, but I've never worked an ice storm with a forecast like this. It's just really important for everybody to take extra precautions."
Meanwhile, some 300 big rig drivers have been stranded for more than 24 hours at a truck stop along I-35 just north of Denton.
"There are certain things that a driver has no control over, and this is one of them," said Stephen Tisdale, a trucker from Fort Smith, Arkansas. Tisdale told NBC DFW he was supposed to deliver the load he is hauling to Colorado by Saturday night. Instead, his truck is stuck in the icy parking lot at the Travel-centers of America off of the Krum exit of Interstate 35.
"You gotta get off the road to be safe. So that's what a lot of us had to do," he added.
According to Weather.com, the mid-Atlantic, Ohio Valley and Midwest would feel the effects of the powerful winter storm in the coming days. Forecasters said even Las Vegas could see snowy showers before Monday. A marathon planned for Sunday in Dallas was canceled.
Baltimore and Philadelphia could also see a few inches of snow, followed by freezing rain and sleet beginning Sunday. By Monday, the wintry mess will extend as far as New York, parts of Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Maine, forecasters said.
The winter weather is expected to linger, with continued snow and lower than normal temperatures persisting in states through the middle of the week, said Kelsey Angle, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
The storm has already cut a wide swathe. Jordan, Montana, set a record-low temperature for Dec. 7 - 42 degrees below zero.
It slammed into the West Coast on Saturday, adding to wintry woes that left icy roads and power outages stretching from Texas to the Rockies late Friday. The new storm dumped heavy snow in parts of California and Oregon and closed Interstate 5 – the major north-south artery – for several hours on the Grapevine, north of Los Angeles.
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport cancelled more than 900 flights on Saturday due to the weather, bringing the three-day total to more than 2,800. And 3,300 people spent the night at the airport, officials said.
That was having a domino effect in other parts of the country. Nearly a thousand flights were canceled on Friday.
Brenda and Doug Jones, who live in a Dallas suburb and had planned to travel to Aruba for their honeymoon, said they decided to go home after waiting 14 hours at the airport.
Most people at the airport were in good spirits despite the conditions, they said.
"People were trying to help each other out," Brenda Jones said.
First published December 7 2013, 9:46 AM