Northeast residents were urged to stay off the roads with temperatures beginning to drop Friday evening as a major winter storm turned already slippery roads and sidewalks into ice-covered hazards.
The storm spread misery from the Deep South, where tree limbs snapped and a tornado claimed a life, to the nation’s northeastern tip where snow and ice made travel treacherous Friday.
Massachusetts State Police responded to more than 200 crashes with property damage or injuries, including one fatal crash, starting Thursday evening, officials said. New Hampshire State Police reported at least 70 crashes Friday morning.
“This number is most definitely low because reports are still being written and entered,” state police in Massachusetts tweeted.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul warned residents as the snow blows out to sea late Friday and Saturday to stay home if possible to avoid ice-coated roadways and the threat of falling tree limbs in the Hudson Valley and Capital regions.
“We’re not out of the danger zone yet,” Hochul said. “The weather is wildly unpredictable.”
More than a foot (30 centimeters) of snow fell in parts of Pennsylvania, New York and New England. Utility crews were making progress in an area stretching from Texas to Ohio after about 350,000 homes and businesses were in the dark at one point.
One of the hardest-hit places was Memphis, where more than 115,000 customers remained without power Friday evening in Shelby County alone, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks utility reports.
Memphis resident Michael LaRosa described cracking and banging as the tree limbs fell, and the dull hum and pop of transformers blowing out in his tree-lined Midtown neighborhood. A fire started at the end of his street, caused by a live wire on Thursday.
“It was pretty surreal for a little while,” LaRosa, a professor at Rhodes College and a book editor, said Friday. “There were people walking in the streets, and I was worried that limbs were going to fall on them. The neighborhood sort of collapsed pretty quickly and pretty spectacularly.”
Crews worked to remove trees and downed power lines from city streets, while those who lost electricity spent a cold night at home, or sought refuge at hotels or homes of friends and family. Utility officials said it could take days for power to be restored.
It’s also going to take days to clear 225 downed trees on city streets, and crews were working 16-hour shifts to get it done, Robert Knecht, Memphis’ public works director, said Thursday night.
In Oklahoma, police in the Tulsa suburb of Broken Arrow said they were investigating a hit-and-run crash that killed a 12-year-old boy who was struck while sledding.
Tragedy also struck western Alabama, where a tornado on Thursday killed one person and critically injured three others, Hale County Emergency Management Director Russell Weeden told local news outlets.
The storm represented a “highly energized system” with waves of low pressure riding along like a train from Texas, where there was snowfall and subfreezing temperatures, to Maine and the Canadian Maritimes, said Hunter Tubbs, meteorologist from the National Weather Service in Maine.
Airlines scrubbed about 3,400 flights by midday Friday, with the highest numbers of cancellations at Dallas-Fort Worth and airports in the New York City area and Boston, according to tracking service FlightAware.
Slippery roads caused scores of vehicles to slide off roads, even before anticipated deteriorating conditions during the evening rush hour.
In Tennessee, a man was killed when his truck crashed into a tree that had fallen on a highway, causing the vehicle to spin into a ditch Thursday night in Haywood County, the highway patrol said.
In the Pittsburgh area, commuter rail service was halted when a power line went down, trapping cars at a Port Authority of Allegheny County rail yard.
In New York’s Hudson Valley, the Catskill Animal Sanctuary was relying on generators for power Friday after the overnight ice storm.
“We had trees down all over the property and trees down on our road,” said Kathy Stevens, founder of the refuge for rescued farm animals.
But the roughly 250 animals in Saugerties were OK, she said. Large animals took shelter in barns and smaller animals were taken to offices, the infirmary and other places to keep safe from falling trees.
In Texas, the return of subfreezing weather brought heightened anxiety nearly a year after February 2021’s catastrophic freeze that buckled the state’s power grid for days, leading to hundreds of deaths in one of the worst blackouts in U.S. history.
But Gov. Greg Abbott said Thursday’s power outages were due to high winds or downed power lines, not grid failures. About 13,000 homes and businesses in Texas remained without power Friday afternoon.
In New England, some places welcomed the winter weather, which was a boon for skiers and snowmobilers.
In Vermont, no one was complaining at the Stowe Mountain Resort where skiers and snowboarders reported some of the best conditions of the season, with more than 10 inches (25 centimeters) of snow overnight, and snow continuing to fall.
“We’re just having a blast, the sauce is flowing,” said Jared Marshall, of Denmark, Maine, a member of the ski team of New Hampshire’s Colby Sawyer College in town for a ski meet.