ARLINGTON, Virginia – Icy roads contributed to a rapid rise in the number of cars congested on Sunday as parts of the nation faced major winter storms that caused blackouts and traffic nightmares.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said Sunday evening that President Joe Biden has approved his request for a federal emergency declaration amid worsening conditions across the state, including Dallas, Houston and El Paso.
The Texas Highway Patrol reported several cars accumulating in the western portion of the state in the early afternoon, including one that involved 25 vehicles and closed off a portion of Interstate 20 westbound.
Thursday, At least six people were killed and dozens were injured In an accumulation of 133 vehicles on the Fort Worth, Texas Highway.
And in Oklahoma, a fire accident involving several semi-trailers shut down I-44 in both directions northeast of Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol said there were also passenger cars at the scene. There were no fatalities, and maintenance personnel were plowing the road to open it to traffic Sunday night.
A wave of harsh winters and bitterly cold temperatures blanketed regions of the Pacific Northwest and parts of the East with ice and snow on Sunday, as more bad weather targeted the country’s southern tier.
The storm that ravaged the west left more than 245,000 homes and businesses without electricity Sunday night in Oregon alone. To the north in Seattle, more than a foot of snow had fallen by Sunday morning, and more rain is expected in the form of sleet or rain that could contribute to a blackout, the Seattle Times reported.
Parts of the east were covered with a layer of ice, More than 165,000 Virginia homes and businesses were dark late Sunday.
The cold, near-record temperatures can be partly blamed on the polar vortex, a large region of low pressure and cold air surrounding the Earth’s poles that plummeted in the United States, and the result was extreme conditions for hundreds of millions of Americans this week.
In parts of Montana, temperatures have fallen below 30 ° C, and high temperatures were not expected to rise above zero or to rise much in eastern Wyoming or Colorado.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency late Saturday. Heating centers and other services were provided.
“The exit crews are in full force,” Brown said in a statement. “I am committed to making state resources available to ensure that crews have the resources they need on the ground.”
The National Weather Service said Oregon, Washington and Idaho states should prepare for another increase in winter humidity Sunday night, which could lead to more heavy snowfall through Monday. The weather service said the “unstable winter conditions” would likely continue throughout the week.
Winter storms and bitter cold have affected large parts of the western United States, placing homeless communities at particular risk. Volunteers worked to ensure that homeless residents in Casper, Wyoming, were inside as the National Weather Service warned of winds of up to 35 degrees below zero.
The south was not an exception. Warnings of winter storms were in effect until Monday, as a string of southern cities prepare for a burst of snow, ice and bitter cold conditions.
Snow blanketed large parts of the capital and its environs Sunday morning in Virginia and Maryland.
“Travel only when necessary,” the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services, Virginia, said on Twitter Sunday. “Work crews continue to inspect / discover known problem areas, but temperatures above freezing are the best assurance of safety.”
Snow began to spread across the plains early Sunday in places like Amarillo, Texas, Oklahoma City and Wichita, Kansas. Accuweather forecast of snow and ice accumulated during a Monday day for a list of cities not accustomed to such winter weather, Including Monroe and Shreveport, LouisianaLittle Rock, Arkansas and Memphis, Tennessee. Everyone can see at least a few inches of fresh snow.
Texas bore the brunt of that.
Houston, with temperatures reaching the 70s on Tuesday, was preparing for below-freezing weather by Sunday night, leading officials to advise residents to prepare for dangerous roads that could be similar to those after a Category 5 hurricane.
“Normally, we don’t have that much cold air in the far south,” said Mark Chenard, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Weather Forecasting Center.
More than 700 flights have been canceled at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, while most of the nearly 200 flights in Dallas Love Field have been canceled for Southwest Airlines, the airport’s main carrier.
Lubbock was preparing snow of 3-5 inches; Areas outside of the city can be seen up to 8 inches. Temperatures are expected to drop to negative numbers overnight, and Monday could see wind chill temperatures of -21 below zero, according to a forecast by the National Weather Service.
The weather service warned that “travel may be very difficult.” “Snowfall areas can greatly reduce visibility. Road conditions will become dangerous.”
In El Paso, the city water authorities are urging residents to “protect your pipes” before the cold front to avoid costly repairs and damage.
“When the water freezes, it expands its volume by about 10% and the pressure can break water lines,” the water company said in a statement.
Experts recommend insulating the outer tubes and even letting cold water drip from the taps. Running water through the pipes helps prevent the pipes from freezing because the water temperature is above freezing.
In Louisiana, the state Department of Transportation has issued closures of bridges, flyovers, and interstate ramps in the northeastern part of the state. The National Weather Service forecasts that snow, sleet and winter will fall on Sunday and Monday across the region.
Temperatures were expected to reach record levels and not rise above freezing for several days.
“Winter storm warnings and winter weather advisories have been issued for significant ice buildup and impacts,” the National Weather Service in New Orleans wrote on Twitter on Sunday. “More than 1/2 inch of ice is possible in some areas, but even freezing rain is dangerous.”
Contribution: Elinor Aspegren, USA Today, Bonnie Bolden, Monroe (Louisiana) News-Star; The Associated Press