The Latest: Chicago area hit with more than a foot of snow

A winter storm has blanketed parts of the Chicago area with up to a foot and a half of snow, shuttering schools to in-person classes Tuesday as officials urged residents to stay off the snow-filled roads

Via AP news wire
Tuesday 16 February 2021 16:16
Winter Weather Chicago
Winter Weather Chicago

The Latest on winter weather across the U.S. (all times local):

CHICAGO — A winter storm has blanketed parts of the Chicago area with up to a foot and a half of snow, shuttering schools to in-person classes Tuesday as officials urged residents to stay off the snow-filled roads

The National Weather Service reported that 18 inches of snow had fallen in Evanston by 8 a.m. Tuesday, while Midway International Airport had 17.7 inches and O’Hare International airport reported 7.5 inches.

Illinois State Police and the state Department of Transportation urged residents to stay at home Tuesday while crews clear roadways.

The heavy snowfall prompted schools to cancel classes across the region, including Chicago Public Schools which reverted to online learning for Tuesday, while federal and local courts canceled in-person hearings.

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OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — Outside of Texas, rolling blackouts have begun to ease the extreme demand for heat and electricity. In Oklahoma, more than 130,000 homes and businesses were without power as utilities implemented two-hour blackouts at the direction of Southwest Power Pool, a group of utilities covering 14 states.

Southwest Power Pool said it predicts morning energy usage would peak at 9 a.m. CST Tuesday and said the outages were “a last resort to preserve the reliability of the electric system as a whole.”

Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co. started rolling blackouts of more than an hour around dawn for Oklahoma City and more than a dozen other communities. The blackout stopped electric-powered space heaters, furnaces and lights just as temperatures were hovering around 8 degrees below zero, some of the lowest readings in a more than weeklong stretch below freezing.

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WASHINGTON — The Federal Emergency Management Agency said in its Tuesday daily operations briefing that Texas officials have requested 60 generators from the agency and the priority for their use will be hospitals and nursing homes.

FEMA said in the briefing that 35 shelters with a total of more than 1,000 occupants have been opened in Texas.

The extreme cold is increasing energy demand at the same time the storm has reduced energy generation. FEMA officials said the lower energy output is due to a variety of factors, including icing on wind turbines and heavy cloud coverage that has reduced solar power generation.

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WILMINGTON, N.C. — Officials with the National Weather Service’s office in Wilmington, North Carolina, say the agency is sending out a team to survey damage and confirm that a tornado did indeed touch down in coastal Brunswick County.

Meteorologist in charge Mark Willis said that warm moist air and strong low-level winds came up from the Gulf of Mexico to the Carolinas, creating conditions that are favorable to tornadoes.

“The main thing that happened here was this area of low pressure moved out of the Gulf and had a warm front with it,” Willis said. “And with that warm front, you got the warm moist air and the correct wind profiles to produce tornadoes.”

Gov. Roy Cooper said that at least three people were killed, others were injured and dozens of homes were damaged as a result of the tornado. He said the state was sending aid to the area.

Brunswick County emergency services director Ed Conrow said Tuesday that the tornado first hit a large retirement community before crossing a highway and damaging homes in a rural area.

He said search and rescue operations were underway and multiple homes were collapsed or seriously damaged.

Brunswick County resident Sharon Benson said that her roof was damaged, her garage door was blown off and windows were shattered at her home.

“We’ve got some substantial damage,” she said, adding that her neighbor’s houses were also heavily damaged. “It’s like a war zone over here. Trees uprooted. Windows, roofs.”

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — About 100 school systems closed, delayed opening or switched to remote classes on Tuesday in Alabama because of slippery roads or frigid temperatures, and highways were dappled with ice and snow in cities including Birmingham and Huntsville.

Transportation Department cameras showed traffic was relatively light after hours of warnings about hazardous conditions, but conditions might not improve for a day since temperatures weren’t predicted to go above freezing in some areas before Wednesday afternoon.

About 8,400 homes and businesses were without power, mostly in a cluster of rural counties near the Mississippi state line where icing began on Monday.

In rural northwestern Alabama, the town of Haleyville was mostly shut down because of ice that began coating trees and roads Monday. Wrecker service owner Ben Lyle said Tuesday that many of the small manufacturing plants and other businesses that fuel the area’s economy were closed, some because of power outages.

Lyle said he’d been busy rescuing stranded motorists and truckers from slippery roads, but only a few people were even trying to drive around the town of 4,100 people.

“I don’t look for the situation to improve before tomorrow,” Lyle said. “We’ve got the ice. If it was just snow it wouldn’t be that bad.”

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DAMASCUS, Ga. — The National Weather Service in Tallahassee, Florida, says a tornado struck the small town of Damascus in the southwest corner of Georgia on Monday.

No deaths have been reported. A survey team planned to visit the site and determine the twister’s intensity.

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Thousands of people in eastern Kentucky and West Virginia were without power Tuesday morning after a winter storm left much of the area coated in ice.

Utility tracking website poweroutage.us showed that there were nearly 150,000 power outages reported in Kentucky and over 100,000 outages in West Virginia.

The National Weather Service said an ice warning remained in effect for much of the area through Tuesday afternoon. The weather service said plunging temperatures, heavy ice and increased winds will likely result in more downed trees and power lines and dangerous road conditions.

In Kentucky, officials reported three additional storm-related deaths. Kentucky State Police said two people died Sunday when their vehicle slid off the road due to icy conditions and overturned in a waterway in Trimble County. Another person died on Monday in a crash in Marshall County that police say was caused by a roadway covered in snow and ice.

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Icy conditions left several thousand customers without power Tuesday morning in New York’s Hudson Valley. Up to ten inches of snow fell in parts of western New York, slowing commutes and forcing some COViD-19 vaccination sites in the Rochester area to temporarily close down.

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CONCORD, N.H. — Heavy snow fell in northern New Hampshire, while a wintry mix of freezing rain and sleet hit the central and southern parts of the state.

State police responded to a number of accidents overnight into early Tuesday. No major injuries were reported. Speed limits were reduced on highways.

“Depending on where you are in the state, you have a different driving experience,” said Eileen Meaney, spokesperson for the New Hampshire Department of Transportation. The storm was expected to move out by midday.