By Associated Press
DALLAS — Snow and ice blanketed large swaths of the U.S. on Sunday, prompting canceled flights, making driving perilous and reaching into areas as far south as Texas’ Gulf Coast, where snow and sleet were expected overnight.
“Typically, we just don’t have quite this much cold air in place that far south,” said Marc Chenard, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center.
The storm has prompted officials in Houston, where temperatures were in the 70s earlier this week, to advise residents to prepare for power outages and hazardous roads that could be similar to those experienced in the wake of a Category 5 hurricane.
As rain fell Sunday in the Houston area, the temperature hovered near freezing. “This rain will be transitioning over to just freezing rain, sleet and snow during the overnight through early morning hours tomorrow,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Josh Lichter.
Chenard said significant ice and up to 12 inches of snow were expected across parts of the southern Plains into Monday.
Winter weather conditions are affecting large portions of the U.S., but it is rare for them to extend so far south, Chenard said.
The Dallas area had a covering of snow by Sunday morning, with flakes still falling, and as much as 6 inches (15 centimeters) was forecast.
With the wintry conditions falling on Valentine’s Day, florists stayed busy even as the snow fell.
In Fort Worth, where it was already icy and snowy, Gordon Boswell Flowers’ general manager said delivery drivers were trying to wrap up before conditions got worse later Sunday afternoon.
“It is icy and snowing and they’re calling for more snow,” Cheri Kirkman said.
Despite the weather, she said they still had some people coming in to pick up gifts. “We’ve got plenty all made up, ready to go,” Kirkman said.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who issued a disaster declaration for all of the state’s 254 counties, warned on Saturday: “All of Texas is facing an extremely dangerous winter storm.”
Abbott, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson have each activated National Guard units to assist state agencies with tasks including rescuing stranded drivers.
The weather was affecting operations at airports across the area, with more than 760 flights canceled at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, and at Dallas Love Field most of the nearly 200 flights for Southwest Airlines /zigman2/quotes/201071949/composite LUV -3.51% , the airport’s main carrier, were canceled.
American Airlines /zigman2/quotes/209207041/composite AAL -5.48% said about 345 of their flights were canceled at DFW Airport, its hub, by early Sunday afternoon. The airline said the storm was also affecting their flights across the region, with operations reduced and canceled at airports across Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.
Officials were discouraging travel in the wintry conditions. By early Sunday afternoon, the Texas Highway Patrol had reported several multi-car pileups in West Texas, including one that involved 25 vehicles and shut down a portion of Interstate 20 westbound.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol said a portion of the Turner Turnpike was shut down due to a mutli-vehicle accident, while the Oklahoma Department of Transportation said the southern corridor of Interstate 35 was mostly snow packed in the left lane and conditions were expected to deteriorate.