The Heat Is Online

Winter Storm Kills 19 in Midwestern U.S.

  Ice storm cuts power to 1 million

 

Southern Plains hit, storm moves East; weeklong power outages possible

 

The Associated Press, Jan. 28, 2009

 

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A destructive winter storm left more than a million customers in the dark before barreling into the Northeast on Wednesday, delaying flights and turning the morning rush into the morning slush as communities braced for the worst.

 

The storm has been blamed for at least 23 deaths and a glaze of ice and snow that caused widespread power failures from the Southern Plains to the East Coast. Authorities said it could be a week before some communities have electricity again.

 

Tree limbs encased in ice tumbled onto roads and crashed onto power lines in hard-hit Arkansas, Kentucky and Oklahoma on Tuesday and overnight. In Arkansas  where ice was 3 inches thick in some places  people huddled next to portable heaters and wood-burning fires as utilities warned electricity may be out for a week or more.

David Stark had an adventurous trip on Interstate 71 to get to work in La Grange, in northern Kentucky.

 

"The roads look clear but you can't do over 40 mph," he said during a stop at a convenience store for gas and food. "There's a lot of black ice. I slipped and slid everywhere."

 

Since the storm began building on Monday, the weather had been blamed for at least six deaths in Texas, four in Arkansas, three in Virginia, five in Missouri, two each in Ohio and Oklahoma, and one in Indiana. Winter storm warnings were in effect from Texas to New England on Wednesday.

 

Power was being restored to thousands of residents of Oklahoma, which was spared the destruction caused by an ice storm that killed nearly 30 people and darkened a half-million homes and businesses for days about 13 months ago.

 

770,000 lose power in Ky., Ark.

 

But next door in Arkansas, about 300,000 customers lacked power Wednesday morning. More than 470,000 were in the dark in Kentucky, where Pearl Schmidt's family endured a cold night without power at their Paintsville home.

 

"We bundled up together on a bed with four blankets. It's freezing," she said.

 

In Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, nearly 300,000 homes and businesses were in the dark as ice and snow coated parts of the states. Ohio's top Republican lawmaker, Senate President Bill Harris, slipped on ice outside a hotel near the Statehouse in Columbus, broke a leg and missed the governor's State of the State address Wednesday.

 

"Lines are still breaking," said John Campbell, the operations chief for Missouri's State Emergency Management Agency. "All the reports we are getting is they are losing the battle right now just because precipitation is still falling."

 

Tracey Ramey of Waynesville, Ohio, a village about 20 miles southeast of Dayton, said her husband left for his job as a snow-plow operator late Monday with an overnight bag and hasn't been able to return. He did call her Wednesday morning to caution her not to go to her data-entry job.

 

"He said, 'There's 2 inches of ice on the road and there's no way you're going to make it to work,'" she said.

 

Flights cancelled, delayed

 

Air travelers hunkered down at airports throughout the region. Philadelphia International reported scattered cancellations and delays Wednesday morning. Airlines canceled more than a dozen flights each out of Columbus and Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. Arrivals and departures were delayed as long as three hours at New York-area airports.

 

The snow and sleet abated somewhat in southeastern Pennsylvania as temperatures rose above freezing later in the day. But in northern and central Pennsylvania, snow accumulations could reach 4 to 8 inches. Up to 8 inches was expected in parts of western Pennsylvania.

 

Cynthia Lahiba of Baltimore walked through the ice and snow about six blocks to her downtown office Wednesday.

 

"My $65 pair of shoes are going to be ruined. It's pretty bad out here," she said.

 

The storm was already turning to rain in New Jersey by Wednesday morning, creating a soggy commute.

 

Some parts of Vermont expected 14 inches of snow, and the entire state was under a winter storm warning through early Thursday. Inland areas of Maine expected 2 feet of snow before the storm ends, and snow also fell over New York and Boston, extending commute times.

 

Forecasters said northwestern Connecticut could get 8 inches of snow, while Hartford and other inland areas could get 6. The National Weather Service expected the snow to turn into rain in the afternoon and evening.

 

Hundreds of public schools, colleges and universities in several states had called off classes Tuesday. Students were to be kept home again Wednesday in parts of West Virginia, a day after all 55 counties closed schools.

 

The weather gave President Barack Obama a chance to rib his new hometown on its winter weather wimpiness. "My children's school was canceled today," he joked with reporters. "Because of what? Some ice?"

 

"As my children pointed out, in Chicago, school is never canceled," Obama said to laughter.

 

© 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

 

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28873371/

 

 

Thousands face days of darkness after storms

 

Road crews prepare for the worst as snow and ice barrels into Northeast

 

The Associated Press, Jan. 28, 2009

 

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Utility companies and road crews prepared for the worst Wednesday as a winter storm barreled into the Northeast, while officials in areas already hit hard by the blast warned it may be days before some shivering communities have electricity again.

 

The storm has been blamed for at least 19 deaths, shuttered government offices and kept kids home from dozens of schools from the Southern plains to the East Coast. With more than a foot of snow forecast for New Hampshire, the Legislature canceled Wednesday's sessions. In Louisville, Ky., the mayor delayed opening government offices until 10 a.m. and urged businesses to follow suit.

 

Tree limbs encased in ice tumbled onto roads and crashed onto power lines in hard-hit Arkansas, Kentucky and Oklahoma, keeping thousands without power. In Arkansas  where ice in some places was 3 inches thick  people huddled next to portable heaters and wood-burning fires as utilities warned electricity may be out for days.

 

"We fully expect this to be one of the largest outages we've ever had," said Mel Coleman, CEO of the North Arkansas Electric Cooperative in Salem. "Right now, we're just hoping it's days and not weeks."

 

'Losing the battle'

 

Ice storms overnight in West Virginia knocked out power to thousands more. American Electric Power reported more than 40,000 outages early Wednesday. Many other utilities struggled to keep up as ice accumulated on power lines and tree branches.

 

"Lines are still breaking," said John Campbell, the operations chief for Missouri's State Emergency Management Agency. "All the reports we are getting is they are losing the battle right now just because precipitation is still falling."

 

In Kentucky, transportation cabinet workers struggled throughout the night to clear debris from impassable roads as rain and freezing rain continued to fall across the state. Widespread outages continued into the morning.

 

Duke Energy called for reinforcements to keep up with power demands in Ohio, where some parts of the state were expected to receive anywhere from 6 inches to a foot of snow. Southern Ohio could get three-quarters of an inch of freezing rain that could solidify.

 

Winter storm warnings were posted for Wednesday from Arkansas to Maine, while ice storm warnings continued for parts of Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas. Philadelphia could be coated in up to a half-inch of ice.

 

Oklahoma statewide emergency

 

Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry declared a statewide emergency Monday. Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear did the same Tuesday in his state, where ice up to 1.5 inches thick weighed down tree limbs Tuesday and caused them to crash onto roadways.

 

"You hear the popping  it sounded like gunfire  and it's limbs from trees breaking," said Hopkins County, Ky., Judge-Executive Donald Carroll, who was among those with no power.

 

On Tuesday, West Virginia state offices shut down early after a 6-inch snowfall and forecasts of freezing rain and sleet, Arkansas state government offices opened two hours late, and all but essential state workers in Oklahoma were told to stay home.

 

Road crews in some states had a hard time keeping up with the pace of falling snow.

 

"The Division of Highways is knocking their socks off trying to keep the roads sort of clear," said Paul Howard, director of operations for the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

 

Students kept home

Hundreds of public schools, colleges and universities in several states had called off classes Tuesday. Students were to be kept home again Wednesday in parts of West Virginia, a day after all 55 counties closed schools.

 

"Playing in the snow is pretty much the thing to do today," said Sarah Bonham, a student at Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va.

Since the storm began building on Monday, the weather had been blamed for five deaths in Texas, three in Arkansas, three in Virginia, five in Missouri, two in Oklahoma and one in Indiana.

 

In Charleston, the Postal Service asked residents to remove snow and ice around their mailboxes out of safety concerns for mail carriers. In Oklahoma City, a postal worker fell on a patch of ice and hit her head while delivering mail Monday and was hospitalized in critical condition.

 

© 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

 

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28873371/

 

8 die as winter storm slams much of U.S.

 

Ice, snow from stretch from the southern Plains to the mid-Atlantic states

 

The Associated Press,  Jan. 27, 2009

 

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Schools closed and thousands of homes and businesses had no electricity Tuesday as a storm spread a coating of ice and snow on roads and power lines from the southern Plains to the mid-Atlantic states.

 

At least eight deaths had been blamed on the weather.

Highway department crews were out in force spreading salt and sand on the accumulating ice.

 

Ice had built up as much as an inch thick around Mountain Home, Ark., and the utility Entergy Arkansas said about 5,800 customers were blacked out as the weight of ice brought down power lines. Missouri's AmerenUE reported about 6,000 customers without service.

 

'It sounded like gunfire'

 

Thousands more had no electricity in Kentucky as ice up to 1.5 inches thick snapped tree limbs and power lines, and caused short circuits that made transformers blow out.

 

"You hear the popping  it sounded like gunfire  and it's limbs from trees breaking," said Hopkins County, Ky., Judge-Executive Donald Carroll, who was among those without power. He said crews in his western Kentucky county were busy trying to clear broken branches from roads.

 

The National Weather Service posted ice storm and winter storm warnings Tuesday along a broad swath from Texas and Oklahoma through the Mississippi and Ohio valleys to New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia.

 

Public schools, colleges and universities called off classes Tuesday in parts of Arkansas, Oklahoma, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois and Maryland. In West Virginia, all 55 counties reported school closings.

Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry declared a state of emergency Monday for all 77 counties and authorities urged residents to stay home.

 

Dozens of flights were canceled at the Oklahoma City and Tulsa airports Monday.

 

Three days without power

 

Arkansas utility officials warned customers to prepare for up to three days without power, and many heeded the warning. At a Lowe's in Fayetteville, sales of generators were up and shoppers were buying batteries, flashlights, kerosene lamps and oil and electrical cords.

"This appears that it could be very significant," said Arkansas highway department spokesman Randy Ort. "I'm hoping people are paying attention to the forecast and will not be going out. It just takes a thin layer of ice to lose control."

 

Kentucky Utilities reported about 16,000 customers without power, mostly in western Kentucky, said Brian Phillips, a spokesman for E.ON U.S., the utility's parent.

 

Up to 10 inches of snow was possible in parts of Kentucky, with 6 inches of snow and sleet already accumulated Tuesday morning in the west, the weather service said.

 

The heavy ice accumulation also was bringing down trees and power lines in extreme southern Illinois, officials said.

 

Elsewhere in the Ohio Valley, many businesses had closed in southern Indiana in anticipation of the storm. The weather service said as much as 9 inches of snow was possible in Ohio by the time the storm ends Wednesday, and Cincinnati operations supervisor Greg Ayres said streets already looked "terrible" Tuesday morning.

 

Since the storm began building on Monday, three deaths had been blamed on slippery roads in Oklahoma, with two in Missouri and one each in Texas, Arkansas and Maryland.

 

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

 

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28873371/