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Massive winter storm brings ice and snow to the central U.S. as it moves eastward

A lone cross country skier pushes through deep snow and blowing winds in Chicago's Lincoln Park on Wednesday.
Charles Rex Arbogast
A lone cross country skier pushes through deep snow and blowing winds in Chicago's Lincoln Park on Wednesday.

Updated February 2, 2022 at 10:04 PM ET

A multi-day winter storm is dropping freezing rain and snow over much of the central U.S. in the second blast of severe weather in a week. This time, a lot more Americans are expected to be affected, with the storm's path spanning more than 2,000 miles.

The National Weather Service on Tuesday issued winter storm warnings and watches from Texas counties near the Mexican border, stretching northeast to the Great Lakes and along the Canadian border, and extending to the northern tip of Maine, with about 100 million people in its path.

As much as 14 inches of snow had been projected to fall on parts of Illinois and Indiana on Wednesday. By the afternoon, Chicago's Midway airport recorded 11 inches. Lewistown, in central Illinois, saw more than 14 inchesof snowfall, and observers in the northeastern Missouri city of Hannibal reported more than 11 inches.

While snow has tapered off across Illinois, according to NWS, winds clocking as high as 40 mph could blow snow south, posing a hazard to already-icy roads.

With the region's heaviest snowfall moving eastward, forecasters estimated that another foot of snow could cover parts of Indiana by Thursday evening.

In a Wednesday morning briefing, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb urged residents to give city snowplows trucks the space to clear and treat the roads.

The combination of rain and snow, particularly in southern Indiana, will make for slick roads, said Indiana Department of Transportation Commissioner Joe McGuinness. While advising against traveling, McGuinness told reporters that evening commuters should take extra caution, since city workers won't be able to treat the roads effectively under current weather conditions.

John Tapko clears snow at his house in Overland Park, Kan., on Wednesday.
Charlie Riedel / AP
John Tapko clears snow at his house in Overland Park, Kan., on Wednesday.

Officials said that some 240 National Guard members are being deployed to patrol the roads and assist any stranded drivers.

In neighboring Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced a disaster proclamation and said he'd activate more than 100 members of the Illinois National Guard. The Illinois Department of Transportation told people to stay home, warning of as much as 20 inches of snow before the storm ends.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed a disaster declarationthat he said would enable "emergency management professionals to have every tool and resource available to aid Missourians, protect lives, and respond to this winter storm."

"Severe winter weather isn't something we are strangers to," he said in a written statement. "But we must be prepared for the worst."

The storm could also bring crippling ice to an area from eastern Arkansas to western Kentucky that could last into the weekend, the Weather Service warned — likely knocking out power and causing tree damage and dangerous travel conditions.

In preparation, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear ordered state government offices to close on Thursday.

"If everything holds to where it is right now, this is the real deal," Beshear said at a Wednesday afternoon news conference.

Much of northern Texas was under a winter storm warning as of Wednesday evening and up to 3 inches of ice and sleet could fall in the Dallas-Forth Worth area. Through Saturday, wind chills in the area could be as low as -10 degrees.

Last February, a winter storm there with record cold temperatures left millions of people without power for days. Water treatment plants closed, forcing people to boil water.

Snow-covered roads and low visibility created dangerous driving conditions. In Missouri, officials are pleading with motorists to reduce their speed, posting photos of the consequences. In central Missouri, crashes shut down parts of Interstate 70at least twice on Wednesday.

More than 2,300 flights within, into and out of the U.S. had been canceled as of Wednesday night, according to the website Flight Aware, and another 3,500 had been canceled for Thursday.

The storm will reach the Northeast on Thursday, potentially bringing up to 3 feet of snow in parts of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine by Saturday morning. A storm across the region last weekend left thousands of people without power, which has since been restored.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Peter Granitz
Emma Bowman
[Copyright 2024 NPR]