A winter storm was dumping snow Wednesday morning from the Florida Panhandle to Maine as it left bone-chilling and icy conditions in the states behind it, snarled traffic across parts of the South and East, and forced thousands of airline customers to scramble.
More than 800 US flights have been canceled and many others delayed Wednesday, with airports in Atlanta, Houston, Boston and New Orleans tallying the most cancellations, flight tracking site Flightaware.com says.
In Houston, ice that the storm left on roads a day earlier reverberated Wednesday as dozens of semitrailers and cars were stuck on US 59/Interstate 69 for hours and the city’s schools were closed.
The below-freezing temperatures were deadly; one homeless person died from hypothermia, Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña said Tuesday.
Houston-area officials urged people to stay off the roads. Nearly 600 crashes have been reported in Harris County since Tuesday morning, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said.
“Even if you think you want to go out … to go to the grocery store, the truth is they haven’t been able to be resupplied. So, just wait,” Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said Wednesday morning.
The sheriff’s office in neighboring Fort Bend County was more blunt on Twitter: “Houston is still closed, Fort Bend. Go back to bed.”
Snowfall on Wednesday is expected to be the heaviest in North Carolina — Raleigh could get up to 6 inches — and New England, where Boston also could see around 6 inches.
“As you go into the afternoon, evening hours, the system is pushing off the Eastern Seaboard,” CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri said.
But even where accumulation is lighter, it could lead to slippery travel given the recent stretch of low temperatures, the National Weather Service said on Twitter.
Dangerous wind chills, driving conditions in South
As it moved across the South, the storm system created difficult driving conditions during Wednesday morning rush hour.
In Atlanta, schools and numerous businesses closed as 2 inches of snow and icy or otherwise slippery roads led to dozens of crashes by morning, CNN affiliate WSB reported.
As elsewhere in the South, Atlanta-area officials were warning people to stay off the roads. More than 170 crashes were reported in Gwinnett County, northeast of Atlanta, police there said.
Video from CNN affiliate WGCL showed vehicles stopped on icy Atlanta streets Wednesday morning, including a city transit bus that apparently couldn’t go any further on a slick stretch.
In Tennessee, which had the coldest pockets in the South, wind chills made the air feel as low as 10 below zero Wednesday morning. More than 45 million people are under wind chill advisories or warnings in the United States.
Forecasters said chilly air would hang around from the South to the Northeast, leaving icy roads and hazardous conditions through Thursday.
Governors of Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina have declared a state of emergency for at least portions of their states.
Classes were canceled at a number of universities Wednesday in the South, including Georgia Tech, the University of Georgia, the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University and North Carolina State University.