Severe Central US Ice Storm to Cut Power, Immobilize Travel and Cause Damage
People from Texas to Ohio are bracing for a dangerous long-duration ice storm that could turn destructive and cut power to hundreds of thousands into Sunday and Monday.
A shallow layer of cold air in the atmosphere will accompany a storm over the central United States. The storm will produce a swath of freezing rain along a 1,000-mile swath.
As the chilled rain falls on cold surfaces, it will freeze into a thin glaze of ice at first. The transparent and slippery nature of the ice will be a great hazard for motorists and pedestrians.
"Travel will be hazardous for hundreds of miles along Interstate 35, I-40 and I-70 in the Central states," according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Brett Rossio.
Glaze of ice to expand northward, eastward into Friday night
A zone of freezing rain and drizzle developed from part of northwestern Texas to central Oklahoma, southeastern Kansas, southern Missouri, southern Illinois and part of southern Indiana during Friday morning.
The zone of ice will expand northward and eastward during Friday afternoon and night.
Untreated sidewalks, streets and highways can turn into a skating rink as a layer of clear, smooth ice forms.
As the storm progresses, the rain will become heavier and can wash away ice-melting compounds.
Heavy ice may begin to down trees, power lines on Saturday
On Saturday, the intensity of the freezing rain will increase over parts of the southern and central Plains. At the same time, areas of freezing rain and sleet will extend as far to the east as portions of Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey.
People traveling across the country may want to consider a more southern route.
Where temperatures remain below freezing and rain falls at a heavy rate, the ice will continue to accrue for a few days. Ice of 0.25 to 0.50 of an inch thick can occur over a broad area.
The thickness of the ice will become substantial enough to weigh down trees and power lines in portions Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Illinois.
Cities likely to experience dangerous conditions with possible significant tree damage and power outages include Amarillo, Texas; Wichita and Topeka, Kansas; Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri, and Springfield, Illinois.
Ice storm to creep northward in central US on Sunday, Monday
While the icy mix will diminish in the mid-Atlantic by Sunday, the ice storm will continue over a large part of the Central states.
Freezing rain, or an icy mix will develop in Omaha, Nebraska, and Des Moines, Iowa, during Sunday afternoon and continue during Sunday night and part of Monday. Icy conditions may develop around Minneapolis on Monday.
Warmer air from the south will begin to thaw parts of the Ohio and middle Mississippi valleys.
The ice storm could have an impact on fans traveling to the NFL Playoff game between the Steelers and Chiefs in Kansas City, even if temperatures rise above freezing Sunday afternoon for the game.
The worst of the ice storm
"In some areas, the weight of the ice combined with increasing wind later on during the storm could bring down many trees and power lines," according to AccuWeather Lead Storm Warning Meteorologist Eddie Walker.
"The worst conditions may be centered on portions of northwestern Texas, western Oklahoma and central Kansas, where there is the potential for about an inch of ice to encase the region followed by 30-mph winds," Walker said.
The power could be out for days and navigation through suburban streets extremely difficult in some communities of the southern and central Plains during and in the wake of the storm.
"The ice storm could rival that of late January and early February of 2002 in the region," Rossio said.
In part of the central Plains, heavy snow can fall on top of the ice, which could add to the risk of downed trees and power outages.
Cities on the edge of the storm
A couple of degrees Fahrenheit will mean the difference between a dangerous buildup of ice and plain rain with wet roads.
Cities that will teeter on the southern edge of the ice versus rain storm include Lubbock, Texas; Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma; Springfield, Missouri, and Cincinnati, Ohio. While ice may not hit the downtown areas of these communities, it may not be far to the north and west where icing is an issue.
On the northern edge of the storm, the air may be too cold and dry for much freezing rain. However, there is the possibility of a period or two of wintry mix and slippery conditions in cities such as Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland during Sunday night and Monday.