A colossal winter storm is hitting the eastern part of the US starting Wednesday, February 2nd and threatens to paralyze parts of the Midwest and South with a combination of ice, snow, and cold temperatures. This combination is dangerous as it can lead to power outages in those areas.
Over 100 million people at the time of writing this are under winter weather alerts.
In the South, including in Texas, ice accumulation is expected. This is dangerous because the winter storm last February claimed the lives of 246 people - most of them dying from hypothermia. The fact this storms effects of hard freezing can linger into the weekend presents problems in that area.
"A corridor of heavy ice accumulation (exceeding a quarter of an inch) is likely from Texas through the Ohio Valley. Locations impacted by snow and/or ice are expected to have temperatures remain below freezing, and well below average for at least a couple of days after the wintry precip(itation) ends."
In anticipation of this storm, roughly 3,000 US domestic flights have been cancelled due to the storm. Only some of the airlines are offering free weather-related rebookings.
Schools have also called off classes, while several governors declared states of emergency or have taken other steps to prepare for dangerous roads and power outages.
While the snow is significant - with the Midwest getting hit with 15 to 20 inches - the prime concern is the ice accumulation the storm brings. Ice makes the roads hazardous and can also affect power grids, resulting in power outages.
Even though ice accumulation is in fractions of inches, it's enough to cause power outages and create dangerous driving situations.
Texas Power Grid Is Prepared This Time
Texas Governor Greg Abbott assured residents that the state is better prepared to handle an ice storm now than it did last year. After all, Texas wasn't prepared for the storm last year and it resulted in widespread power outages as well as thousands freezing for weeks.
I doubt that Cruz plans to travel to someplace warm should history repeat itself, but this time it's different. The power grid - overlooked by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT - is in a better spot to handle these storms.
Abbot on Tuesday stated that ERCOT will have an excess of 15,000 megawatts of power available even at times where demand for power is very high. Abbott has also stressed that ERCOT will remain to be flexible in order to better respond to power demands too.
But even as Abbott stresses this, power still can go out and it can be caused from external factors that go beyond grid's capacity. Things like falling trees or icy power lines will cause disruptions and Abbott stresses that fact too.
Even though the storm coming in now isn't going to be as cold as last year's, there are still other challenges. The National Weather Service office in Fort Worth said as much in a tweet adding that with more ice the road conditions will be worse and the icing can cause localized power outages.
National Guard And Plows Are Ready
Once the storm pushes south and east, conditions are expected to turn icy rather than snowy, threating with ice accumulation for millions of people.
Forecasts are also showing the impact of this storm lingering into the upcoming weekend, especially in South and Mid-South area.
In preparation for this, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson deployed 88 members of the state's National Guard. He also signed an executive order allocating $250,000 for recovery efforts.
Illinois Governor JB Pritzker activated the National Guard and made a declaration of disaster. The state Department of Transportation is also deploying over 1,800 trucks and equipment to plow, treat roads, and respond to weather emergencies.
Missouri and Oklahoma's governors also issued states of emergency until Thursday. Missouri Governor Mike Parson also activated the National Guard.
Schools Closed For Texas And Missouri
Beyond that, the potentially dangerous conditions have led to the Dallas Independent School District to close for Thursday and Friday. Schools are expected to make up for those days as well.
Kansas City, Missouri, is also expecting the school districts to close doors on Wednesday due to the potential impact of the storm. They even closed virtual learning so students could enjoy an old-fashion snow day.
Regardless of the circumstances, brace yourself and stay safe.