Ice storm hits US

2013-12-08 07:41


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Memphis - A late fall cold snap that has gripped much of the US is being blamed for a handful of deaths and has forced people to deal with frigid temperatures, power outages by the thousands and treacherous roads.

Weather forecasters say the powerful weather system has Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic states in its icy sights next.

Temperatures in Montana and South Dakota were more than -29'C during the day on Saturday while much of the Midwest was in the teens and single digits.

Icy conditions were expected to last through the weekend from Texas to Ohio to Tennessee, and Virginia officials warned residents of a major ice storm likely to take shape on Sunday, resulting in power outages and hazards on the roads.

In California, four people died of hypothermia in the San Francisco Bay area and about a half-dozen traffic-related deaths were blamed on the weather in several states.

More than 100 000 customers in the Dallas area were without power on Saturday, with about 7 000 in Oklahoma and thousands more in other states. About 400 departing flights from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport had been cancelled in the morning, the airport said. About 3 330 passengers had stayed overnight in the terminals.

Icy, treacherous sections of Interstate 35 north of Dallas were closed for hours at a time over the last day as tractor-trailers had trouble climbing hills, wrecks occurred and vehicles stalled, authorities said.

Jody Gonzalez, chief of Denton County Emergency Services, said about 200 people were in shelters in the Sanger area after getting stuck on the highway.

Texas Department of Transportation spokesperson Michelle Releford said road graders and more sand and salt trucks were being sent to try to ease the ice problems.

Freezing rain and sleet are likely again on Saturday night in Memphis, Nashville and other areas of Tennessee before the storm starts surging northeast.

"I'm not afraid of the ice and snow, I'm afraid of the other drivers who don't know how to drive in it," said Memphis attorney Sam Chafetz, who was going home early to enjoy some bourbon-soaked sweet potatoes left over from the Thanksgiving holiday.

In Virginia, state Emergency Management spokesperson Laura Southard said the storm had the potential to be a "historic ice event."

"This forecast is very concerning to us," Southard said Saturday. "I've worked multiple disasters, but I've never worked an ice storm with a forecast like this. It's just really important for everybody to take extra precautions."

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