Published: December 06, 2013
A big chunk of the U.S. is getting a blast of wintry weather. Some areas are experiencing frigid temperatures. Some are seeing snow and ice. The conditions are making travel difficult and prompting the cancellation of flights, holiday festivities and football games. Even one outdoor ice rink in cold-accustomed South Dakota is shutting down.
A storm rolling in over the weekend will keep northern Arizona in the grips of freezing temperatures, bringing more snow and making travel a little tricky.
Phoenix residents could see a dusting of snow in the surrounding mountains. Several inches of snow could fall in the higher terrain.
The cold weather is normal for this time of year, but the duration of chilly temperatures that will dip below zero in some parts of northern Arizona is what makes the recent and upcoming days "on the cold end of normal," said David Blanchard, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Flagstaff.
Tucson street crews were busy Thursday preparing for the weather by coating about 70 bridge decks with magnesium chloride to keep ice from sticking to roadways.
The National Weather Service issued an ice storm warning for the Interstate 40 corridor and other areas in Arkansas, as a storm that's expected to cripple much of the state into the weekend brought sleet that left roadways slick with ice and slush.
Forecasters say significant ice accumulations were expected across central Arkansas late Thursday through Friday.
In northwestern Colorado, temperatures dropped to near 30 degrees below zero.
National Weather Service meteorologist Matthew Aleksa said the temperature in Meeker hit 29 below zero just before sunrise Thursday, and Craig was at minus 27 degrees.
"Those are the actual temperatures, not wind-chill temperatures. It's going to stay cold," Aleksa said.
Some mountain areas reported up to a foot of snow. The Colorado Department of Transportation said U.S. Highway 550 was closed between Silverton and Ouray in western Colorado to prevent avalanches on Red Mountain Pass.
In Denver, homeless people lined up in 9-below-zero temperatures before dawn, waiting for the St. Francis Center day shelter to open so they could get off the streets.
The National Weather Service said Denver's airport tied a record low Thursday of minus 15 set in 1972, but the airport was also closer to Denver 41 years ago.
Some organizations in the Dakotas canceled holiday events, and one city decided it was even too cold for ice skating.
A "Christmas at the Zoo" fundraising event in the North Dakota city of Minot and "Parade of Lights" events in the South Dakota cities of Yankton and Sturgis were among those called off. Many schools announced late starts, and officials in Rapid City, S.D., shut down an outdoor ice rink.
The National Weather Service posted advisories for the two states saying wind chills could make the temperature feel as low as 40 degrees below zero into the weekend.
Icy, cold weather led to dozens of vehicle accidents in southern Illinois, and some schools and day cares were closed for Friday.
More than a dozen counties south of Interstate 70 in southern Illinois were under winter storm warnings from the National Weather Service. Parts of Illinois could see up to 8 inches of snow.
The electric utility Ameren Illinois says it has trucks ready to respond to outages.
The Indiana Department of Transportation was preparing for freezing rain, sleet, ice and snow to hit parts of the state Thursday night and Friday.
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for much of southern and central Indiana.
Temperatures fell sharply across Michigan on Thursday. Readings reached a spring-like 63 degrees in parts of southern Michigan and the mid-40s in the Upper Peninsula early Thursday before the frigid air pushed into the state.
The National Weather Service said that by mid-afternoon, the day's lows stood at 10 degrees in Ironwood, 15 in Iron Mountain, 31 in Kalamazoo and 38 at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
A mix of snow and freezing rain was expected in places, making travel difficult, and gale warnings were in effect for Lake Superior and parts of northern Lake Michigan.
The storm dumped as much as 2 feet of snow in parts of Minnesota, forcing school closures and temporary power outages and delighting skiers who were hitting the slopes despite temperatures in the single digits Thursday.
The Spirit Mountain ski area in Duluth, Minn. welcomed the heavy snowfall, which helped turn the slopes into a party. Attendees included students from the University of Minnesota Duluth and other colleges who were given Wednesday off.
While college classes resumed Thursday, Duluth-area elementary and high schools remained closed. Temperatures were in the single digits above zero Thursday morning and were forecast to slowly fall all day on their way to subzero overnight lows for at least the next few days.
Most of southern Missouri was under winter weather warnings, with up to 8 inches of snow possible by Friday evening.
Even more problematic: Sleet and freezing rain accumulations of up to a quarter-inch were expected in areas south of Interstate 44 in addition to the snow, creating a strong potential for downed power lines and very slick driving conditions.
"Certainly power outages are going to be a real threat," said Scott Truett, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in St. Louis. As for driving, snow on top of ice "is a very bad combination," Truett said.
Adding to Missouri's woes was the frigid cold. Highs were mostly expected to reach only into the 20s or low 30s, a sharp decline from highs in the 60s in many places just 24 hours earlier. St. Louis reached 69 degrees on Wednesday; afternoon temperatures on Thursday were 40 degrees colder.
Temperatures plunged to minus 11 in Helena, where a frozen pipe burst and flooded part of the Montana State Capitol building Thursday morning.
There was minor flooding in the cafeteria, media rooms and some bathrooms, although most of the building remained open for business and public meetings as workers dried the soaked areas.
The cold snap Thursday set or matched record low temperatures in parts of Montana, including minus 26 in Great Falls. Denton also set a record at minus 23 Thursday morning and Havre's minus 27 reading matched a record that has stood since 1936.
The cold snap is expected to last through the weekend.
In northern Nevada, Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong said extreme cold was likely what killed a 53-year-old transient who was found dead behind a convenience store Thursday.
Carson City's high temperature hasn't exceeded 25 for two days, according to the National Weather Service.
In northeast Nevada, the low Thursday reached a record 23 below zero in Ely, near the Utah line. A hard freeze warning remained in effect as far south as Las Vegas until 9 a.m. Friday.
A storm system that swept through parts of New Mexico on Thursday dumped up to 6 inches of snow across the state, closing some schools and causing dangerous driving conditions and traffic accidents, including one that critically injured a sheriff's deputy.
New Mexico State Police say Sandoval County sheriff's deputy Robert Baron, 47, was transported to University of New Mexico Hospital after he was struck by a vehicle while directing traffic on Interstate 25 near the San Felipe Pueblo.
The weather forced school closures in Santa Fe and in Albuquerque's eastern mountains. Schools in other municipalities, like Las Vegas, N.M., opted for a two-hour delay.
Temperatures in parts of Ohio were expected to drop by 40 degrees or more as an icy blast of wintry weather bore down on the state Thursday. Temperatures could plunge into the teens by the weekend.
Forecasters predicted the cold front would bring a mix of freezing rain and sleet, as well 2 to 6 inches of snow along the Interstate 70 and 71 corridors from Cincinnati through Columbus.
Freezing precipitation fell in parts of southern Oklahoma on Thursday morning, prompting officials to postpone high school state football championship games and cities to cancel holiday festivities across the state.
The brunt of the wintry storm bringing snow and ice will be felt overnight and into Friday morning, National Weather Service forecaster Daryl Williams said.
The Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association said the 6A state football title game between Jenks and Union has been rescheduled from Thursday in Stillwater to Dec. 12 in Tulsa. Other games would be rescheduled for next week.
Holiday events during the next few days were also canceled in several cities.
In Moore, officials canceled the Christmas in Old Town event featuring horse-drawn carriage rides and a tree-lighting ceremony, which was to take place Friday night. City spokesman Jayme Shelton said organizers feared putting residents in potentially unsafe situations.
The cold proved too much for a public outdoor pool in the Oregon city of Klamath Falls. Officials in the high-desert city known for heating businesses, homes and sidewalks with geothermal resources closed the pool at least until next week.
The pool that's heated with geothermal resources is normally around 80 degrees and sometimes closes in cold weather, but that's usually in January. The pool temperature had fallen to about 75, low enough to put users at risk, said John Bellon, superintendent of parks maintenance and operations.
It was cold in the area east of the Cascade Range on Wednesday, about 7 above in the city and setting a record low for the day at nearby Crater Lake: minus 2.
Statewide, the cold was expected to be followed by significant snow in much of southern and eastern Oregon.
A storm brought sleet and freezing rain to the West Texas region on Thursday, coating roads with a layer of thin ice and prompting the postponement of Saturday's Texarkana Bowl.
The freezing precipitation was expected to transition to snow later Thursday. Temperatures in West Texas were expected to stay in the 20s Thursday and Friday.
American Airlines and American Eagle canceled nearly 500 flights Thursday. Fort Worth-based American said the cancellations were a precaution in anticipation of deteriorating travel conditions.
The Texarkana Bowl between Harding University and Texas A&M Commerce was postponed because the area was under an ice storm warning. Bowl officials and representatives of both schools were working to reschedule the game, which was originally to be held Saturday.
With residents of northwestern Wisconsin digging out from as much as 17 inches of snow, forecasters warned that temperatures in the area could plunge as low as 25 degrees below zero.
Temperatures across north-central Wisconsin were forecast to fall into the single digits above and below zero on Thursday night. They were expected to drop into the minus 20s over the next few days into the middle of next week.
Residents in Laramie and the Shirley Basin endured temperatures of 31 degrees below zero Wednesday night, and high temperatures across the state were forecast to remain in the single digits through the weekend.
Other frigid readings across Wyoming overnight included minus 24 in Rawlins, minus 22 in Casper and Pinedale and minus 19 in Cheyenne. [Copyright 2013 The Associated Press]