Updated Jan 31, 2023 - Energy & Environment

Dangerous ice storm underway as Arctic air surges south

An image of the winter weather hitting the United States.

Satellite image shows the winter storm from Texas to the Mississippi River Valley. Source: NOAA

A long-duration ice storm impacting portions of the Southern Plains and mid-South is expected to last until Wednesday, bringing the potential for power outages, tree damage and dangerous road conditions to several states.

The big picture: About 3.3 million Americans were under an ice storm warning on Tuesday morning, with 16.5 million under a winter storm warning, according to the National Weather Service. Many more were under other types of winter weather alerts, such as wind chill advisories.

State of play: "A glancing blow of arctic air mixed with a surge in moisture is setting the stage for an extensive and very dangerous ice event," the National Weather Service warned in an update on its website

  • "The most likely corridor of icing with a mixture of sleet will occur from west-central Texas to the Tennessee and Lower Ohio Valleys. The ice accretion from Texas into Mid South may approach a half inch or more through Wednesday and cause power outages and travel issues."

Zoom in: Frigid air in the Upper Midwest and Great Plains headed South, where it's encountering moisture along a frontal boundary, and leading to this treacherous stretch of icy precipitation.

  • NOAA's Weather Prediction Center forecast several rounds of wintry precipitation, including light freezing rain and sleet from Monday to Wednesday. Ice accumulations may be greater than a quarter of an inch, the prediction center said.
  • The ice "will lead to tree damage and power outages across the hardest-hit regions," it added.
  • The dangerous weather had already led to hundreds of flight delays and cancelations by Monday afternoon.

Winter storms and ice freeze U.S.

Winter storm and ice storm warnings were in effect across several states, from Texas to Arkansas to Kentucky, according to the National Weather Service.

  • “Travel could be nearly impossible in some areas,” the NWS said.
  • Sleet and freezing rain has fallen across Texas on Monday. Much of the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area is under a winter storm warning until Wednesday morning.
  • Moderate to heavy sleet, possibly accompanied by thunder, is expected in both Arkansas and Oklahoma, according to the NWS' Tulsa office.
  • Freezing rain and sleet are expected in Kentucky, too, making "travel treacherous" through Tuesday morning, per the NWS' Paducah, Kentucky, office.

An icy mix of precipitation is expected across at least 15 states from Monday to Wednesday, according to the NWS’s Weather Prediction Center.

  • Memphis is currently under an ice storm warning until noon on Wednesday with “significant icing expected" and ice accumulations predicted to reach one-quarter to one-half inch, according to the NWS Memphis office.
  • In western Kentucky, one- to two-tenths of ice accumulation is expected, according to the NWS' Paducah office.

Temperatures could hit 20 to 30 degrees below average throughout the Great Plains and Intermountain West to start the week, too, NOAA said. The Dakotas and Minnesota could see wind chill temperatures drop to minus-40°.

  • Temperatures were in the single digits Monday afternoon in South Dakota cities Sioux Falls, Rapid City and Aberdeen.
  • Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, had single-digit temperatures, too.

Flight delays and cancellations

Details: By 9 p.m. on Monday, more than 5,100 flights into, within or out of the United States were delayed, with around 1,100 flights canceled, according to data from FlightAware.

  • Most of the flights were from Southwest Airlines and were out of Dallas-Fort Worth International and Dallas Love Field airports.
  • Southwest Airlines said travelers with flights to, from and through some cities in Texas, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Oklahoma can rebook flights without additional charges. This applies to flights from Jan. 30 to Feb. 1.
  • American Airlines also issued a waiver for DFW airport that applies to flights from Jan. 29 to Feb. 2.

Axios' Andrew Freedman contributed to this report.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with further details on the storm.

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