A long-duration ice storm will impact a large swath of the South through Wednesday, with the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area at the center of the threat.
The slow-moving storm system is expected to bring freezing rain and accumulating ice to parts of the country extending from Texas to West Virginia.
About 50 million people were under winter alerts Monday, including Dallas and Austin, Texas; Oklahoma City; Little Rock, Arkansas; Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee; and St. Louis.
A light, freezing rain is expected to break out across portions of the central and the southern Plains on Monday, and a wintry mix is expected in parts of the Mississippi, Tennessee and Ohio river valleys. It will be enough to glaze roadways, leading to treacherous travel.
A heavier round of freezing rain is expected to develop Tuesday over central Texas and up through Arkansas into Tennessee.
Wednesday will bring a third round of wintry precipitation across much of the area and could be the worst and most impactful, because the rain will be the heaviest and temperatures the coldest.
Ice accumulations could be as high as 0.25 inches, which could lead to near-impossible travel conditions and a high likelihood of power outages.
Freezing rain is the most dangerous type of winter precipitation because it looks like rain when it falls but instantly turns to ice when it lands on below-freezing ground.
Coldest since Christmas
Arctic cold moving down from Canada is causing the frigid conditions. As many as 16 million people were under wind chill alerts from the Canadian border to the Texas Panhandle on Monday, with temperatures as low as minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit in Montana and Wyoming and minus 40 degrees in the Dakotas.
It was minus 59 degrees in Peter Sinks, Utah, the coldest temperature recorded in the state in 21 years. The last time the state came close to this was minus 62 degrees Jan. 20, 2002.
The arctic air mass causing temperatures to drop to 40 degrees below average will spread south and east through the week, eventually making it to the Northeast by Saturday, when morning temperatures are expected to hit single digits and wind chills in the minus 10 to minus 20 degree range.
As parts of the South struggle with the winter storm, several cities in the Northeast will continue to wait for snow. New York City set a record Monday for the latest first measurable snow, the previous record having been recorded Jan. 29, 1973.
With no measurable snow in the short-term forecast, the city could break the record for its longest “snowless streak,” which is 332 days set in 2020. As of Monday, it was sitting at 327 days.
Some other notable snowless stats
- Philadelphia is quickly approaching its latest first snow on record, which is Feb. 3.
- Washington, D.C., averages 13.8 inches of snow a year and should have received half of that by now. The four latest first snowfalls on record were all in February.
- Syracuse, New York, one of the country’s snowiest cities, averages more than 120 inches of snow annually but has received just 25 inches this winter, putting it 3 feet behind the average for the season to date.
- Erie, New York, has had just 39.5 inches of snow this season, more than 2 feet below where it should be. It should have had 65 inches by now.
Why no snow for the East?
Several factors can be blamed for the lack of snow in the East, the first being a lack cold air and an unfavorable storm track that is typical of La Niña winters.
The second is related to the warming climate. Winter is the fastest-warming season, leading to a trend in less snow overall. The East is also seeing more “yo-yo” winters of very snowy versus no snow at all because of extremes related to the warming atmosphere.