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Winter storm cancels flights, keeps thousands without power

More than 400,000 customers in Texas still lacked power early Thursday, according to PowerOutage, a website tracking utility reports

Icicles hang from the Angelina Eberly statue in downtown Austin, Texas, during a winter storm on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023.
Icicles hang from the Angelina Eberly statue in downtown Austin, Texas, during a winter storm on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023.Jay Janner (AP)
Miguel Jiménez

A mess of ice, sleet and snow lingered across much of the southern US as thousands in Texas endured freezing temperatures with no power, including many in the state capital of Austin, but a warming trend was forecast to bring relief from the deadly storm Thursday.

Hundreds more flights were canceled again in Texas, although not as many as in previous days. But another wave of frigid weather in the US is on the horizon, with an Arctic cold front expected to move from Canada into the northern Plains and Upper Midwest and sweep into the Northeast by Friday. The front is expected to bringing snow and windchills lower than minus 50 (minus 45 Celsius) in northern New England, according to the National Weather Service.

More than 400,000 customers in Texas still lacked power early Thursday, according to PowerOutage, a website tracking utility reports.

The outages were most widespread in Austin, where frustration mounted among more than 150,000 customers, over 24 hours after their electricity and heat went out. For many, it was the second time in three years that a February deep freeze caused prolonged outages and uncertainty over when the lights would come back on.

Unlike the 2021 blackouts in Texas, when hundreds of people died after the state’s grid was pushed to the brink of total failure because of a lack of generation, the outages in Austin this time were largely the result of frozen equipment and trees falling on power lines. The city’s utility warned all power may not be restored until Friday as ice continued causing new outages, even as repairs were finished elsewhere.

“It feels like two steps forward and three steps back,” said Jackie Sargent, general manager of Austin Energy.

School systems in the Dallas and Austin area, plus many in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Memphis, Tennessee, closed Thursday as snow, sleet and freezing rain continued to push through.

Airport crews battled ice to keep runways open. By Thursday morning, airlines had canceled more than 500 flights at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport – more than a quarter of all flights scheduled for the day. Still, that was down from about 1,300 cancellations on Wednesday and more than 1,000 on Tuesday, according to FlightAware.com.

Dozens more flights Thursday were canceled at Dallas Love Field and Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

Watches and warnings about wintry conditions stretched from the West Texas border with Mexico through Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana and into western Tennessee and northern Mississippi.

The treacherous driving conditions resulted in at least nine deaths on slick roads since Monday, including seven in Texas and one each in Oklahoma and Arkansas. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott urged people not to drive.

The latest fatality occurred late Wednesday on Interstate 40 in western Oklahoma when a semitrailer overturned and vehicles behind it, including several other rigs, “cascaded” in separate collisions on the icy road, according to Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Eric Foster.

Eastbound lanes were closed for more than five hours following the crashes, Foster said.

Public transportation in Dallas is also experiencing “major delays,” according to a statement from Dallas Area Rapid Transit. The system serves about 220,000 riders daily in 13 cities within the Dallas metro with a network of streetcars, light rail, buses and vans, according to its website.

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