By Meghan Evans
An ice storm, which could be the worst to hit the United States in years, is unfolding across portions of the southern Plains and will continue into the weekend.
The most significant icing is expected from Texas to Kentucky through Friday. Widespread power outages are likely as ice weighs down tree branches and power lines, while treacherous travel develops in areas receiving freezing rain, sleet and snow.
More than 260,000 were reportedly without power around the Dallas area early Friday morning.
Entergy Arkansas, Inc., which serves nearly 700,000 customers in 63 counties of Arkansas, lies in the zone expected to receive ice for the longest duration.
“With a major storm that affects a large area of our territory, power restoration for all customers could take between five to seven days to complete, with the majority of customers being back in service much sooner than that,” said Brady Aldy, transmission and distribution operations director for Entergy Arkansas Inc.
Half an inch of sleet has accumulated in Fort Smith, Ark., with 0.4 of an inch building up in six hours, according to the local National Weather Service station.
The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency lists a state of emergency as crews mobilize for the ice storm.
One of the Worst Ice Storms in Years to Unfold From Texas to Kentucky
See Current Winter Storm Warnings
How to Survive a Power Outage During an Ice Storm
UPDATES: (All times are listed in Central Time)
8:50 a.m. CST Friday: NWS-trained spotters report 0.1 of an inch of sleet, 3.5 inches of snow in Johnson County, Indiana.
8:15 a.m. CST Friday: A new release was issued by the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, listing the state of emergency as a level III.
7:20 a.m. CST Friday: NWS-trained spotters report 5.7 inches of snow for Crawford County, Mis.
6:50 a.m. CST Friday: Oncor power outages in Texas just under 200,000 and have expanded from the Dallas area and now includes areas around Odessa.
6:15 a.m. CST Friday: FlightStats lists excessive delays at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and significant delays in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. More than 700 flights to and from DFW have been preemptively cancelled.
5:45 a.m. CST Friday: The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety is discouraging travel on most of its roads, including around Oklahoma City, and are urging extreme caution for those who do drive as ice continues to coat the roads.
5:20 a.m. CST Friday: More than 130,000 Oncor Electric Delivery Company customers have lost power in Texas.
5:00 a.m. CST Friday: Most roads in southern Illinois are listed as snow or ice covered by the Illinois Department of Transportation, including I-57 from the Tennessee state line on north.
4:20 a.m. CST Friday: Roads are covered in snow on I-20 just southwest of Fort Worth, Texas. Use caution if you plan on heading out this morning.
3:10 a.m. CST Friday: An NWS-trained spotter reports as much as 7 inches of snow accumulation in Marissa, IL, southeast of St. Louis.
2:05 a.m. CST Friday: Snow, sleet and freezing rain continues to fall from Texas through Arkansas, setting up for a hazardous morning for for some major cities such as Dallas, Texas.
12:45 a.m. CST Friday: There are now more than 30,000 Oncor electric customers without power in Texas, the utility reports.
12:05 a.m. CST Friday: Police in Bradley, Texas, are reporting a solid sheet of ice on roadways with accidents occurring on US 87 just west of the town.
10:30 p.m. CST Thursday: Roadways are very slick in Franklin County, Ill., with NWS-trained spotter reporting 3 inches of snow on top of 1 inch of ice and sleet. Exercise caution if you plan on traveling on I-57 or I-64 around Mt. Vernon.
9:35 p.m. CST Thursday: Ice has built up to 0.2 inches in Cairo, Ill., according to emergency managers, with an inch of sleet on top of the ice just to the north of the town.
8:30 p.m. CST Thursday: Traffic camera shows a portion of US 63 and Kingshighway in Missouri, covered in snow and ice.
8:24 p.m. CST Thursday: The Missouri Department reports a vehicle crash on Interstate 44 West near Phelps County. The left lane of the highway is closed and travelers in the area should expect delays. It is unclear whether or not the crash was due to ice or snow; however, the road was covered with ice and snow at the time of the crash.
8:00 p.m. CST Thursday:
7:50 p.m. CST Thursday: Part of the Fort Worth Mix Master (I-30 west to I-35W south) is closed, Fort Worth, Texas, police report.
7:45 p.m. CST Thursday: Half inch of sleet and ice on Cooke County, Texas, highways, emergency manager reports.
7:30 p.m. CST Thursday: 0.2 in of sleet and ice, 7 miles NW of Poplar Bluff, Mo., NWS trained spotter reports.
7:07 p.m. CST Thursday: Light snow, fog and mist make for tough driving conditions on I-44 and US 65 West in Missouri.
6:50 p.m. CST Thursday: About 750 OG+E electric customers are without power in Arkansas, the utility reported.
6:45 p.m. CST Thursday: Weather forces Texas Tech University to delay the start of final exams until late Friday morning, according to the university.
6:31 p.m. CST Thursday: Half inch of ice reported by NWS-trained spotter near Valier, Ill.
6:18 p.m. CST Thursday: Arkansas high school football playoffs postponed due to the impending weather on Friday and Saturday, according to the Arkansas Activities Association. The game is to be rescheduled for Dec. 13 and Dec. 14, 2013.
6:00 p.m. CST Thursday: Approximately 720 Entergy customers in Arkansas are without power, mostly in the Arkadelphia area, according to the utility’s website.
5:50 p.m. CST Thursday: Two inches of sleet in Harrison, Ark., near the Missouri border.
5:28 p.m. CST Thursday: 0.10 of an inch of ice covering roads and sidewalks at Sherman, Texas, NWS-trained spotter reports.
5:25 p.m. CST Thursday: “The southern half of the state is now snowy or icy,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Dave Samuhel said. “Heavy precipitation will continue into the evening with extreme icing in the southeast part of the state but heavy snow in the southwest.”
5:15 p.m. CST Thursday: Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe declares statewide disaster and eases restrictions on utility crews, fuel haulers and propane deliveries during the winter storm, according to the Governor’s office.
5:10 p.m. CST Thursday: The Missouri State Highway Patrol has extended shifts in areas expected to be impacted, all available four-wheel drive vehicles have been prepared to respond, according to Gov. Jay Nixon’s office.
5:02 p.m. CST Thursday: Texas Gov. Rick Perry issues a disaster declaration ahead of the winter storm for 143 of the state’s 254 counties.
4:56 p.m. CST Thursday: The Dallas Zoo has announced that it will be closed Friday and Saturday due to the expected winter weather. The zoo’s coat drive scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, is also canceled.
4:47 p.m. CST Thursday: The Dallas Independent School District cancels all Friday classes and all school activities Friday and Saturday due to the forecasting of wintry weather including ice.
4:21 p.m. CST Thursday: Snow and ice cover US 287 at US 281 in Wichita Falls, Texas.
3:57 p.m. CST Thursday: Roads covered in ice, as freezing rain falls over portions of Jefferson, Perry and Jackson counties in Illinois, reports the Illinois Department of Transportation.
3:40 p.m. CST Thursday: NWS spotter reports 2.5 inches of sleet in Cottle County, Texas, 10 miles from Paducah. Spotter also reports that the area has a layer of ice underneath the sleet and snow.
3:15 p.m. CST Thursday: Bridges on I-35 in Gainesville, Texas, are icy. Several accidents have also occurred, according to the Cooke County Emergency Management.
3:00 p.m. CST Thursday: AccuWeather LIVE is on now talking about the ice storm and its impacts.
2:55 p.m. CST Thursday: Highway 49 is now closed, according to the Missouri Department of Highways.
2:50 p.m. CST Thursday: Trees and power lines reported down in Doniphan, Mo.; coated with 0.2 of an inch of ice, according to an NWS-trained spotter.
2:30 p.m. CST Thursday: A tenth of an inch of ice has accumulated in Grayson, Texas, according to an NWS-trained spotter. The freezing rain in the area has now switched over to sleet.
2:05 p.m. CST Thursday:
1:50 p.m. CST Thursday: Entergy Arkansas is reporting areas of low power outages around Little Rock, Ark., and Memphis.
1:30 p.m. CST Thursday: Freezing rain is coming down over Midland, Texas, where the high was only 27 F earlier this afternoon. At the same time yesterday, the high was 77.
1:15 p.m. CST Thursday: Missouri Department of Transportation lists major highways leading into St. Louis, including I-44 and I-55, as partly covered to fully covered with ice and sleet.
12:50 p.m. CST Thursday: Nearly 300 departing and arriving flights have been canceled at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.
12:30 p.m. CST Thursday: NWS-trained spotters in New Mexico report as much as 5 inches of snow accumulation in San Miguel County.
11:50 a.m. CST Thursday: FlightStats list excessive delays into and out of the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport ahead of the ice storm as a result of delays from other airports.
11:10 a.m. CST Thursday: All highways in Cimarron and Texas counties in Oklahoma are closed to over-sized loads due to snow and ice accumulations, according to the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety. Roadways are slick and dangerous, and motorists are urged to use caution.
10:51 a.m. CST Thursday: Senior Vice President of AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions Mike Smith warns in his blog that a reliable index used to gauge the severity of ice storms, called the Sperry-Piltz Ice Accumulation Index, is indicating that areas in southeastern Oklahoma and Arkansas (just west of Memphis–shown in the purple color below) will have “prolonged and widespread utility interruption” with “outages lasting 5 to 10 days.”
10:23 a.m. CST Thursday: The Texas Department of Transportation is listing icy and snowy roads around Odessa, Abilene and Lubbock. Crews are out to ice roadways and bridges, but they are advising extreme caution for drivers.
9:45 a.m. CST Thursday: “Moderate freezing rain is falling from Fayetteville to Fort Smith, Ark.,” AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said.
A local interactive radar snapshot shows the area getting the heaviest icing at this time: