Freezing Rain Causes Power Outages, Ices Midwest Roads
Freezing rain left roads slippery, cut power to thousands of homes and businesses, and prompted officials to close hundreds of schools in parts of the Midwest on Wednesday, while flooding caused by ice jams prompted evacuations in Michigan and Illinois.
The National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory warning of freezing rain, snow and another round of cold weather from Nebraska through Michigan. The warnings also come in the wake of snow, ice and shivering cold hitting normally mild cities in the West.
School districts including Detroit's were closed Wednesday, as was Wayne State University after residents awoke to a thick coating of ice covering streets, driveways and vehicles. Freezing rain in Kansas and Missouri created icy roadways blamed in two separate crashes that killed three people. The icy conditions prompted officials to cancel classes at dozens of schools in both states.
In mid-Michigan, flooding caused by an ice jam along the Grand River in Portland prompted officials to evacuate about 50 people from homes near the river. Jim Hilligan told the Lansing State Journal that emergency response officials went door-to-door evacuating residents.
"They weren't rushing, but they were like, 'You guys got to get out of your house, the river has broken the banks,'" Hilligan said.
Major utilities reported more than 50,000 customers were without power early Wednesday in the state, mostly in western Michigan, after freezing rain brought down trees and power lines.
Ice was also breaking up along the Kankakee River in northeastern Illinois, flooding some roads and prompting evacuations. The National Weather Service issued a flash-flood warning in the area Wednesday morning.
Dangerously low temperatures set in across the Northern Plains, while storms moving into North Dakota and western Minnesota were expected to bring as much as a foot of snow (30.5 centimeters) and wind chills as low as minus 40 (negative 40 Celsius).
Heavy snowfall blanketed states to the West, including Utah, where a winter storm triggered a rare snow day for many students, delayed government operations and snarled morning traffic. Snowfall closed schools and kept snow plow operators busy across northern Arizona early Wednesday, with Flagstaff residents waking up to 9.4 inches of snow (24 centimeters), according to the National Weather Service.
Bitter cold also moved into the Sierra Nevada on Wednesday on the heels of a storm that dropped up to 3 feet (91 centimeters) of snow on the mountains around Lake Tahoe the day before.