MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A late fall cold snap that has gripped much of the country is being blamed for a handful of deaths and has forced people to deal with frigid temperatures, power outages by the thousands and treacherous roads.
Temperatures in Montana and South Dakota were more than 20 degrees below zero during the day Saturday while much of the Midwest was in the teens and single digits. Wind chill readings could drop as low as 50 below zero in northwestern Minnesota, weather officials said.
Icy conditions were expected to last through the weekend from Texas to Ohio to Tennessee, and Virginia officials warned residents of a major ice storm likely to take shape Sunday, resulting in power outages and hazards on the roads.
In California, four people died of hypothermia in the San Francisco Bay area and about a half-dozen traffic-related deaths were blamed on the weather in several states.
More than 100,000 customers in the Dallas area were without power Saturday, with about 7,000 in Oklahoma and thousands of more in other states. Some 400 departing flights from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport had been cancelled in the morning, the airport said. About 3,330 passengers had stayed overnight in the terminals.
A treacherous section of icy Interstate 35 about 50 miles north of Dallas has been closed intermittently for as long as five hours as tractor-trailers were unable to climb a hill and then clog the busy highway, Texas Department of Transportation spokeswoman Michelle Releford said Saturday. The backup sometimes extended for mile.
Jody Gonzalez, chief of Denton County Emergency Services, said about 200 people were in shelters in the Sanger area after getting stuck on the highway. People in that area of I-35 were driving through ruts in 4-inch-thick ice, he said.
Releford said road graders and more sand and salt trucks were being sent to try to ease the ice problems.
“We’re sending in everything we’ve got,” said Releford
Freezing rain and sleet are likely again Saturday night in Memphis, Nashville and other areas of Tennessee before the storm starts surging northeast.
“It looks like we’re going to be stuck with this for one, two, maybe three days,” said Memphis attorney Sam Chafetz, who was going home early to enjoy some bourbon-soaked sweet potatoes left over from Thanksgiving.
“I’m not afraid of the ice and snow, I’m afraid of the other drivers who don’t know how to drive in it,” Chafetz said.
In Virginia, state Emergency Management spokeswoman Laura Southard said the storm had the potential to be a “historic ice event.”
“This forecast is very concerning to us,” Southard said 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.”
The weather forced the cancellation of countless events, including Sunday’s Dallas Marathon, which was expected to draw 25,000 runners, some of whom had trained for months, and the St. Jude Marathon in Memphis, expected to include 20,000. However, the football game between Central Florida and Southern Methodist in ice-covered Dallas went on in front of a sparse crowd.
Meanwhile, around 7 inches of snow fell in northeast Arkansas and the Missouri boot heel, according to the National Weather Service in Memphis, and 8 to 9 inches fell in parts of southern Indiana. The storm dumped a foot of snow and more in some areas of Illinois, with police scrambling to respond to dozens of accidents and forced scores of schools to remain closed.
Ice accumulated on trees and power lines in Memphis and the rest of West Tennessee after layers of sleet fell throughout the region Friday but most roads were passable Saturday.
Looking ahead, the National Weather Service says a wind chill advisory is in effect for parts of northeast Arkansas and the Missouri boot heel. Forecasters say wind chill readings between zero and minus-5 degrees may occur. Usually in the area, snowstorms are followed by fairly quick rebounds into warm weather, but not this time.
Ice had built up on the windshields and roofs of parked cars throughout Memphis into Saturday. Law enforcement reported an increase in traffic crashes, and scattered power outages affected more than 3,000 people, emergency and utility officials said.
Residents were told to prepare for a few days without power, prompting them to rush to stores to stock up on groceries, buy electricity generators and gas up their cars. Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell reminded residents to check on family and friends who are elderly, disabled or live alone.
A day after freezing rain, sleet and snow brought most of Arkansas to a near standstill Friday, the sun began to help melt ice on major roadways on Saturday.
Primary roads were usable if motorists could maintain a head of steam, but once they stopped, it was difficult to get going again, said Randy Ort, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Highway and Transportation.
Additional sleet or snow is expected Saturday night and Sunday.
Xcel Energy crews are working in bitter cold temperatures to restore natural gas service to 7,200 customers in a part of Boulder County. A company spokesman says an equipment failure at a regulator station was repaired Friday afternoon, but crews must go door-to-door to restart customers’ pilot lights.
The outage came just as a winter blast brought snow and single-digit temperatures to much of Colorado.
Temperatures ranged from the single digits to nearly 20 degrees in Iowa on Saturday, and snow was in the forecast.
Western Iowa will see 4 to 5 inches of snow, while the rest of the state is likely to get 1 to 3 inches.
The National Weather Service says lows will hover around zero at the beginning of the week and dip lower on Wednesday.
Parts of north Mississippi will come under a winter weather advisory Saturday night into Sunday as a second wave of freezing rain moves into the region.
The National Weather Service said ice accumulations are not expected to exceed one-tenth of inch — enough for motorists to be cautious with overnight temperatures dropping in the upper 20s to near freezing.
Like many states, Missouri experienced temperatures in the single digits on Saturday. The National Weather Service said the Kansas City International Airport tied a record low Saturday morning — just 1 degree.
The weather didn’t stop the St. Jude’s Frostbite Half/Full Marathon in Cape Girardeau, about 120 miles southeast of St. Louis. Twenty-six heavily bundled participants turned out for the race, which at its start was 11 degrees.
Frigid temperatures are expected to hang around Nebraska through the weekend and into next week, while another storm system will bring anywhere from an inch to 4 inches of snow to central and eastern parts of the state.
Freezing rain and slick patches made driving conditions dangerous Saturday on Interstate 40 in eastern New Mexico and Interstate 25 near Raton. Meanwhile, the National Weather Service says northern and southwestern New Mexico will see snow late Saturday into Sunday, with wind gusts up to 50 mph.
Carlsbad has set up a temporary housing shelter for the homeless because of the freezing temperatures.
The subzero temperatures aren’t a problem for Fargo residents. But for those who have come to cheer on South Carolina-based Furman take on North Dakota State in a Football Championship Subdivision playoff game, it’s nearly unbearable.
One mother came from Nashville, Tenn., to watch her son play for Furman. She told WDAY-TV that the 20-below zero temperature took her breath away and it hurt to breathe.
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation said many roads were still slick and hazardous on Saturday.
Westbound lanes of Interstate 40 were shut down near the Oklahoma-Arkansas state line for nearly 2½ hours early Saturday after a tractor-trailer rig jackknifed. And ODOT warned of hazardous driving conditions on I-35 near the Oklahoma-Texas state line.
The bitter cold snap led to cancelled events and increased calls for furnace repairs.
The temperatures won’t, however, keep away the state’s most unwelcome visitors. Forestry officials say the mountain pine beetles that have ravaged the Black Hills in recent years can withstand the arctic temperatures, which have approached 20 below zero in some areas.
North Texas authorities say treacherous sections of icy Interstate 35 north of Dallas have been closed for hours at a time intermittently over the last day. Tractor-trailers have had difficulty climbing hills, vehicles have stalled and wrecks have occurred.
Jody Gonzalez, chief of Denton County Emergency Services, said Saturday about 200 people have been in shelters in the Sanger area — about 50 miles north of Dallas — after getting stuck.
Weather officials said an ice storm is imminent throughout much of Virginia early Sunday through Monday morning.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for at least 28 counties in southwestern and central Virginia. Accumulations of up to an inch of snow and sleet are likely through Sunday afternoon, followed by up to a half inch of ice through Monday morning.
Up to an inch and snow and sleet and a half-inch of ice is in the forecast for parts of West Virginia.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for six southern and southeastern counties from early Sunday through Monday morning.
Wind chills are dipping well below zero from central to northeast Wisconsin, prompting the National Weather Service to issue wind chill advisories. Meteorologists say wind chills will be between minus-20 and minus 30 degrees on Saturday.
Southwest and central Wisconsin could also see 4 to 5 inches of fluffy snow Sunday.