The deadly ice storm crippling much of the South leaves more than 300,000 Texans without power in the frigid cold
By Aya Elamroussi, Holly Yan, Caroll Alvarado and Joe Sutton, CNN
Treacherous road conditions are now linked to three deaths in Texas as a wave of ice and sleet continues to hammer parts of the southern and central US into the overnight hours.
A 49-year-old woman was killed this week when she lost control of her truck on an icy road north of Eldorado, the Texas Department of Public Safety told CNN on Wednesday.
Two other deaths were previously linked to the storm that coated Texas cities with sleet or ice. In south Austin, one person died Tuesday morning in a 10-car pileup, the city’s fire department said. Another person died when their car rolled over in the Dallas-area city of Arlington, police said.
The dangerous conditions are not over. A nasty combination of freezing rain, sleet and accumulating ice are expected hit parts of Texas, Arkansas and Tennessee through at least Thursday morning, forecasters said.
“Road conditions will be AWFUL after sunset and overnight,” the National Weather Service in Fort Worth said. “DO NOT BE ON THE ROADS.”
More than an inch of sleet has already piled up in parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky and Illinois since Monday.
In Texas alone, more than 350,000 homes, businesses and other power customers had no electricity in the frigid cold Wednesday night, according to PowerOutage.US.
Ice brought down multiple trees and large tree limbs Wednesday, causing power outages across the Austin metro area, the National Weather Service said.
Dangerous conditions prompted Parkland Health system in Dallas to extend the closure of its clinics on Thursday.
Here’s what’s on tap in the southern and central US:
• Texas: The state has seen heavy freezing rain throughout Wednesday, which will continue steadily into overnight across much of northern and central Texas as temperatures remain below freezing.
• Southern Oklahoma: Freezing rain continues to move across the region and will last through Thursday morning.
• South-central Arkansas and Tennessee’s Memphis area: An additional tenth- to quarter-inch of ice could pile up through Thursday morning.
• Across the region: Total ice accumulation of at least a quarter of an inch is likely from West Texas to western Tennessee through Thursday morning. Up to a half-inch could build up in parts of central and north-central Texas and southern Arkansas, the National Weather Service said.
• Widespread flight cancellations: More than 2,400 flights within, into or out of the US were canceled Wednesday, according to the tracking website FlightAware.
Jeep owners set out to rescue drivers
In a state not accustomed to heavy ice, a group of Jeep enthusiasts used their vehicles to help stranded drivers.
The Dallas-based “Carnales Off Road” group regularly supports those in need, founder Jorge Coronilla Muñiz told CNN.
“It’s not the first time we’ve done this during bad weather. We try to help as often as possible,” Muñiz said.
Several semi-trucks got stuck on Interstate 20 on Tuesday, and about 30 Jeeps helped tow them.
“Before we got to I-20, we also helped a few other cars who were stuck on the streets,” Muniz said. “We eventually came across the standstill on Interstate 20 and helped an additional 20 trucks.”
Muñiz said he and other group members helped stranded motorists from early Tuesday morning all the way until 10 p.m.
“Everyone was very grateful for our help, especially the truck drivers. Some even asked if we were going to charge them for the help, but we told them we were just there to help.”
The group is back out on the roads Wednesday and will help medical professionals having difficulty getting to and from work, Muñiz said.
‘Hazardous or impossible travel conditions’
More than 12 million people across parts of southeastern Oklahoma, southern Missouri, central and eastern Arkansas, western Tennessee, northwestern Mississippi and Texas are under ice storm warnings Wednesday.
The weather service issues ice storm warnings when ice accumulations of more than a quarter of an inch are possible.
Unsafe travel conditions Tuesday led to hundreds of car crashes across Texas, officials said. Emergency workers responded to people suffering from hypothermia or those injured after slipping on ice. The Texas National Guard is prepared to help stranded motorists, clear roadways and provide welfare checks, Gov. Greg Abbott said. And Texas Parks and Wildlife has at least 30 responders ready for search and rescue operations.
Extreme cold temperatures up north, too
Meanwhile, a separate storm system will also send temperatures plunging across the Northeast.
The National Weather Service predicts “dangerously cold temperatures” in the region Friday and Saturday, with freezing cold wind chills that can cause frostbite in just 10 minutes, it said.
“Limit time outdoors and cover all skin if going out,” the service added.
The service forecasts wind chills of -20 to -35 degrees Fahrenheit early Friday affecting parts of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, while Saturday morning could bring wind chills of -60 degrees Fahrenheit across northern New England, the weather service said.
Leaders across states including Rhode Island, Connecticut and Maine were coordinating resources ahead of the extreme weather and setting up warming centers, according to messages from the governors.
“Temperatures this weekend will be extremely – and dangerously – cold across the state,” Maine Gov. Janet Mills said in a Tuesday news release. “Please take extra precautions, be careful if you go outside, and be sure to check on your family, friends, and neighbors to make sure they are okay.”
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CNN’s Taylor Ward, Christina Maxouris, Chris Boyette, Monica Garrett, Tina Burnside, Ashley Killough, Ed Lavandera and Jessica Jordan contributed to this report.