Winter Weather Sweeps Across the Country, with a Multi-Day Storm Creating Widespread Travel Hazards
WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 2, 2022 AS OF 2:00 PM EST
Almost 80 million Americans are currently facing winter storm watches or warnings ahead of heavy snow and ice, according to The Washington Post. These warnings reach from the Mexican border up until Canada, with major cities that include Chicago, Indianapolis, St. Louis, and Dallas in the storm’s path. The National Weather Service (NWS) Prediction Center tweeted a ‘large and significant’ winter storm is anticipated to start on the evening of Tuesday, February 1 and last until February 4, ushering in winter weather hazards that include heavy snow, sleet, and freezing rain. The winter weather is anticipated to reach most of the United States; with a range of severe weather and anticipated challenges stretching from the Mid-to-Southwest and the East Coast.
EAST COAST WINTER STORMS
The northeastern United States (US), including New England and the Mid-Atlantic states, experienced a significant winter storm that started on Friday, January 28 and continued through the weekend. In early reports from the National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Prediction Center (WPC), the storm was predicted to bring heavy snow and strong winds from Maine to as far south as Wilmington, Delaware. The key messages of the WPC warned travelers and predicted scattered power outages caused by strong or damaging winds, whiteout conditions, and coastal flooding or erosion. The Ocean Prediction Center (OPC) identified primary marine hazards as gale, storm, and hurricane force winds during the formation of the bomb cyclone, or bombogenisis, on Friday. The NWS also predicted significant impacts in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina, noting higher-than-average levels of snow and gusty winds. Following initial snowfall, the NWS issued an update predicting especially cold temperatures through Saturday and into Sunday morning. Upstate New York recorded minimum temperatures in the -30s on Sunday as a result of the strong winds and cold system.
According to the NWS, some regions of the eastern US had as much as 30 inches of snow, with the greatest accumulations surrounding the Boston Metropolitan area and Long Island, New York. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker issued travel advisories throughout the storm and assured residents that the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) was addressing community needs in sheltering, food supplies, and rescue with power outages in mind. MEMA identified roughly 55,000 customers without power across the state. New York Governor Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency ahead of incoming snow and wind, calling for the activation of the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services’ (NYSDHSES) Emergency Operations Center (EOC). She echoed Governor Baker’s message to avoid unnecessary travel and stay alert for changes caused by high winds. Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, and Delaware Governor John Carney were among the state leaders to join Governor Hochul in calling for a statewide emergency in response to the winter storm.
Corrected final snowfall reports from the January 28-29, 2022 blizzard. Highest totals by state:
MD-Ocean Pines 14″
VA-Wallops Island 9.5″ pic.twitter.com/GMFykCzAIV
— NWS Eastern Region (@NWSEastern) January 30, 2022
COLD FRONTS IN THE SOUTH
CNN is reporting that this week’s winter storm is expected to stretch over 2,000 miles and across 21 states, impacting more than 85 billion people, including areas across the Southern US starting Wednesday, February 2 through Sunday, February 6, when temperatures are expected to return to normal. In the southern US, the NWS WPC is warning of “frigid air” extending from the Great Lakes to the South High Plains due to the “emergence of arctic high pressure in the front’s wake” between Wednesday and Friday, causing impacted areas to experience temperatures 10 to 25 degrees below average. The New York Times reports that a combination of cold temperatures and wind chills could cause part of eastern New Mexico to feel like 20 to 25 degrees below zero, according to NWS Albuquerque meteorologist, Brian Guyer; likewise, Fort Worth, TX may see temperatures drop to 10 degrees below zero, according to NWS Fort Worth/Dallas meteorologist, Monique Sellers.
Along with the frigid temperatures, experts are anticipating freezing rain and ice accumulation from Texas through the Ohio River Valley, including the potential for up to a quarter inch of ice accumulation in areas surrounding Dallas and Fort Worth, TX, according to the latest forecast by NWS Fort Worth/Dallas. In other areas of the South, like outside of Little Rock, AR, ice accumulation may reach as high as three quarters of an inch. The impacts of freezing rain and ice are significant, making travel dangerous and causing an increased risk of downed power lines and power outages.
Tuesday Morning Update: Areas north and east of the Metroplex have the greatest potential to see significant impacts from this system. See the images for more specifics regarding your forecast and potential impacts. #txwx #dfwwx #ctxwx pic.twitter.com/tyu2pji5dU
— NWS Fort Worth (@NWSFortWorth) February 1, 2022
Twitter: NWS Fort Worth
A prolonged winter weather event is now underway. Heavy snow is expected from the southern Rockies to New England, while significant freezing rain accumulations are likely from portions of the southern Great Plains through the Ohio Valley. pic.twitter.com/yBj2nuwrXE
— NWS Weather Prediction Center (@NWSWPC) February 2, 2022
Twitter: NWS Weather Prediction Center
MIDWEST WINTER STORMS
The NWS issued a winter storm warning across east central and northeast Kansas to Missouri, to remain in effect until noon CST Thursday, February 3. Winter Storm Landon is predicted to bring snow, sleet, and freezing rain over more than 1,8000 miles; from the Colorado Rockies to the Midwest Plains, according to The Weather Channel. CNN also reported the winter storm could stretch across 21 states, reaching over 85 million people under weather alerts. CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller forecast that Toledo, Ohio could experience the city’s greatest snowfall in 100 years, with a forecast of 16 inches, “which would rank behind 20.2 inches in 1900.”.
Consider these probabilities of 18″ of snow in the context of record 3-day snowfall from central Illinois into northern Indiana, which are generally in 15-20″ range depending on location.
Snow is spread over a couple days, yes. But it’s potentially a LOT of snow for these areas. pic.twitter.com/LrmjcM8NjM
— Alex Lamers (@AlexJLamers) February 1, 2022
Twitter: Alex Lamers
The Midwest is anticipated to face two rounds of winter weather; NWS Chicago tweeted the first round of snow will continue through Wednesday afternoon, while the second round will continue through Thursday morning, with additional snow accumulations south of a line from Paxton, Illinois to Rennsselaer, Indiana. The same source also tweeted widespread snow totals could range between eight to 12 inches.
In anticipation of the impending severe weather, NWS has issued Hazardous Weather Outlooks, Winter Storm Warnings, Winter Weather Advisories, and Wind Chill Advisories for the areas expected to be impacted. The Dallas Morning News reports that preparations for the freeze are well underway in Texas, where Governor Greg Abbott and state leaders held a press conference on Tuesday to assure Texans that the state has spent the past year getting ready for another severe winter weather event in the wake of the 2021 winter storm. Notably, Texas’ power grid, which failed and caused severe power outages across the state last winter, has been inspected and prepared to withstand future storms, according to Brad Jones, interim Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) president and CEO.
Finish your preparations now if there’s a snow storm in your forecast:
✅ Sign up for your community’s warning system.
✅ Restock your family emergency kit with everyone’s needs in mind.
✅ Install & test smoke alarms. Make sure you have battery backups.https://t.co/25oiruojq8 pic.twitter.com/ZWbbGAj7D6
— Readygov (@Readygov) February 1, 2022
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is encouraging residents and businesses in the path of this week’s severe weather to make preparations now, per a January 31st press release issued by FEMA Region 5. Acting regional administrator for FEMA Region 5, Moises Dugan, offers several key reminders when faced with severe winter weather, including avoiding all unnecessary travel, ensuring your vehicle’s gas tank is full and has emergency supplies, and checking on neighbors and friends in need of assistance. According to FEMA, winter storms can last from several hours up to several days; disrupt access to heat, power, and communications; pose additional risks for vulnerable populations like older adults, children, those who are ill, and pets; and can “create higher risk of car accidents, hypothermia, frostbite, carbon monoxide poisoning, and heart attacks from overexertion.” In order to stay safe, it is important to pay close attention to local weather reports, The Emergency Alert System, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio for the latest warnings, watches, advisories, and to seek shelter immediately when instructed to do so.
The Hagerty Blog Team will continue providing information and updates on current events and disasters impacting the nation. Visit Disaster Discourse for the latest information.