Winter storm spreads heavy snow, ice further across U.S.

CHICAGO (AP) — 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 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.

“We have a lot of real estate covered by winter weather impacts this morning,” Andrew Orrison, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in College Park, Maryland, said early Thursday. “We do have an expansive area of heavy snow, sleet and freezing rain occurring.”

Parts of Ohio, New York and northern New England were expected to see heavy snowfall as the storm moves to the east with 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 centimeters) of snow possible in some places through Friday, Orrison said.

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.

More than 20 inches (51 centimeters) of snow was reported in the southern Rockies, while more than a foot of snow fell in areas of Illinois, Indiana and Michigan. 

Sleet and freezing rain were occurring early Thursday in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and in parts of Oklahoma and Arkansas. Tens of thousands of homes and businesses were without power, mostly in Texas and Arkansas, according to the website poweroutage.us, which tracks utility reports. 

“Unfortunately we are looking at enough ice accumulations that we will be looking at significant travel impacts," Orrison said.

In Chicago, Elisha Waldman and his sons welcomed the opportunity to hit a sledding hill Wednesday, 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. 

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.

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.

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Bleed reported from Little Rock, Arkansas. Associated Press writers Terry Wallace in Dallas; James Anderson in Denver; Teresa Crawford in Chicago; and Mike Householder in Canton, Michigan, contributed to this report.

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