CHICAGO – A major winter storm with millions of Americans in its path spread rain, freezing rain and heavy snow further across the country on Thursday, disrupting travel as roads in many states were left icy by the wintry mix and airlines canceled thousands of flights due to the weather.
A long stretch of states from New Mexico and Colorado to Maine remained under winter storm warnings and watches and the path of the storm stretched further from the central U.S. into more of the South and Northeast. Heavy snow was expected from the southern Rockies to northern New England, while forecasters said heavy ice buildup was likely from Texas to Pennsylvania.
A mix of freezing rain, sleet and snow fell early Thursday in states including Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania, while Michigan and Kansas saw additional snow. Along the warmer side of the storm, strong thunderstorms capable of damaging wind gusts and tornadoes were possible Thursday in parts of Mississippi and Alabama, the Storm Prediction Center said.
By midday Wednesday, some places had already reported snow totals exceeding or nearing a foot, including the central Illinois town of Lewistown with 14.4 inches (36.6 centimeters) and the northeastern Missouri city of Hannibal with 11.5 inches (29.2 centimeters).
“And it’s still snowing across these areas,” said Andrew Orrison, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in College Park, Maryland.
Central Illinois and northern Indiana appeared likely to receive the most snowfall, with expected totals ranging from 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 centimeters) by the end of Thursday, Orrison said.
Snow had begun to taper off in Missouri by early Wednesday afternoon but much of the state could wind up with 8 inches to a foot (20 to 30 centimeters) of snow. Parts of Michigan also could snow totals around a foot by Thursday.
In Chicago, Elisha Waldman and his sons welcomed the opportunity to hit a sledding hill Wednesday morning, even as snow continued to fall.
“Cold and wet and wonderful, and getting cold and wet is part of the fun with the guys, and we get to go inside and have hot cocoa and warm up," Waldman said.
In Detroit's western suburbs, Tony Haley also found an advantage to the weather. He owns a landscaping and irrigation company that offers snow removal and salting services, but the early winter weeks offered few opportunities for business.
“This one here, we’re looking for a good two, three days of work," Haley said after clearing snow away from several businesses in Canton.
But for those on the roads, the heavy snow created hazardous conditions. In central Missouri, officials shut down part of Interstate 70 midday Wednesday after a crash made the roadway impassable. Areas south of the heavy snow were expected to continue to see freezing rain and ice.
The disruptive storm began Tuesday and moved across the central U.S. on Wednesday's Groundhog Day, the same day the famed groundhog Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter. The storm came on the heels of a nor’easter last weekend that brought blizzard conditions to many parts of the East Coast.
The storm's path extended as far south as Texas, nearly a year after a catastrophic freeze buckled the state's power grid in one of the worst blackouts in U.S. history. The forecast did not call for the same prolonged and frigid temperatures as the February 2021 storm, and the National Weather Service said the system would, generally, not be as bad this time for Texas.
Early Thursday morning there were over 46,000 power outages being reported in Texas and over 17,000 in Oklahoma, according to poweroutage.us.
Snowfall totals reached 22 inches (56 centimeters) in Colorado Springs and up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) in the Denver area, with more expected, prompting universities, state government offices and the Legislature to shut down.
Airlines canceled nearly 8,000 flights in the U.S. scheduled for Wednesday or Thursday, the flight-tracking service FlightAware.com showed. Airports in St. Louis, Chicago, Kansas City and Detroit canceled more flights than usual. Almost 700 flights were canceled Thursday alone at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, and more than 300 were canceled at nearby Dallas Love Field.
Bleed reported from Little Rock, Arkansas. Associated Press writers John O’Connor in Springfield, Illinois; Paul J. Weber in Austin, Texas; Terry Wallace in Dallas; Margery Beck in Omaha, Nebraska; Rick Callahan in Indianapolis; James Anderson in Denver; Teresa Crawford in Chicago; Mike Householder in Canton, Mich.; Bruce Schreiner in Frankfort, Ky. and Jeff Martin in Woodstock, Georgia, contributed to this report.