A powerful winter storm system pounded the nations midsection Wednesday and headed toward the Northeast, where people braced for the high winds and heavy snow that disrupted holiday travel, knocked out power to thousands of homes and were blamed in at least six deaths.
Hundreds of flights were canceled or delayed, scores of motorists got stuck on icy roads or slid into drifts, and blizzard warnings were issued amid snowy gusts of 30 mph that blanketed roads and windshields, at times causing whiteout driving conditions.
The way Ive been describing it is as a low-end blizzard, but thats sort of like saying a small Tyrannosaurus rex, said John Kwiatkowski, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Indianapolis.
The system, which spawned Gulf Coast region tornadoes on Christmas Day and a historic amount of snow in Arkansas, pushed through the Upper Ohio Valley and headed toward the Northeast. Forecasts called for 12 to 18 inches of snow inland from western New York to Maine starting late Wednesday and into today and tapering off into a mix of rain and snow closer to the coast, where little accumulation was expected in such cities as New York and Boston.
The storm left freezing temperatures in its aftermath, and forecasters also said parts of the Southeast from Virginia to Florida would see severe thunderstorms.
More than 1,400 flights were canceled by evening, according to FlightAware.com. Delays of more than an hour were reported Wednesday at the three New York City-area airports, the Federal Aviation Administration said.
In Arkansas, some of the nearly 200,000 people who lost power could be without it for as long as a week because of snapped poles and wires after ice and 10 inches of snow coated power lines, said the states largest utility, Entergy Arkansas.
Gov. Mike Beebe sent out National Guard teams, and Humvees transported medical workers and patients. Snow hadnt fallen in Little Rock on Christmas since 1926, but the capital ended Tuesday with 10.3 inches of it.
Mississippis governor declared states of emergency in eight counties with more than 25 people reported injured and 70 homes left damaged.