Americans on the West Coast and in the Northeast are dealing with heavy snowfall, strong winds, power outages and dangerous road conditions as a series of storms lash opposite sides of the US.
Nearly 50 million people across the Northeast are under winter weather alerts as a storm that brought tornadoes, damaging winds and hail to the Central US sweeps into the region.
The storm pummeling the Northeast will spread further into northern New England Tuesday as cold air locks over the region and 4-8 inches of snow fall, according to the National Weather Service.
Winter weather alerts are in place for Boston – where up to 6 inches could fall – and New York City, which could see the biggest snow event of a nearly snowless season. Central Park, which has only received 0.4 inches of snowfall this year, could see 3-5 inches of snowfall through Tuesday afternoon.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul told residents to prepare for hazardous travel conditions as the state braces for freezing rain, snowfall rates of at least 1 inch per hour and wind gusts up to 40 miles per hour.
In Rhode Island, where Gov. Daniel McKee also warned of a difficult morning commute, all Providence schools were closed Tuesday. Connecticut also announced closures of schools in Hartford as well as all state office buildings as the state readied for a significant snowstorm to come through that could bring heavy snowfall between 5-7 inches and isolated amounts up to 10 inches.
South of the freeze line, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is forecast to see rainy conditions Tuesday.
More than 217,000 US homes and businesses were without power as of Monday afternoon, the majority in Michigan, according to PowerOutage.us.
Meanwhile, as some Northeast residents get their first taste of snow this season, a new storm system is hitting the West Coast with more snow, high winds, blizzard conditions and unusually cold temperatures – right after another storm dumped thick snow there last week.
Two more rounds of heavy snow are expected in the Sierra Nevada and Northern California over the coming days, with snowfall rates over 2 inches per hour and wind gusts up to 60 mph in the forecast, the Weather Service says. In the higher mountain ranges, snowfall amounts over a foot are likely.
An avalanche warning is in effect through Wednesday morning for the Central Sierra Nevada Mountains, including for the Greater Lake Tahoe area.
Heavy snow will make it as far east as the Colorado Rockies and as far south as northern Arizona, bringing hazardous travel conditions there Tuesday and Wednesday, the Weather Service says.
California is still recovering from a major winter storm that brought unfamiliar wintry conditions at higher elevations last week, including rare blizzard warnings to the southern part of the state. Many major roadways were closed Monday.
Some residents in Southern California’s San Bernardino Mountains have been trapped by the snow since last week and they’re now watching their gas stations and grocery stores run low on supplies, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff.
As crews work to create single-lane pathways on roads for first responders, San Bernardino County declared a local emergency Monday to seek state and federal assistance with clearing the snow, officials said.
Among those trapped were more than 600 students who were scheduled to return home last Friday but got stuck at their camps due to the storm. California Highway Patrol escorted the children’s buses down the mountain on Monday so they could reunite with their families, according to an Irvine Unified School District spokeswoman.
Snow and wind will combine in the Sierra Nevada mountains to create blizzard conditions and make travel “very dangerous to impossible,” the National Weather Service warned.
“If you plan to travel by road at elevations above 1,000 feet through West Coast states, be prepared for rapidly changing conditions and have winter driving supplies,” the National Weather Service warned.
Interstate 80 at the California-Nevada state line was closed Monday night due to whiteout conditions.
“Travel could be impossible with near zero visibility at times through early Wednesday morning. Strong winds could cause tree damage and power outages. If you risk travel you could become stranded in vehicles for hours,” the National Weather Service office in Reno said.
California Highway Patrol in Truckee tweeted that “TRAVEL IS HIGHLY DISCOURAGED,” telling drivers to expect long delays, high winds, zero visibility.
In Oregon, a section of the 5 Freeway was closed, with the weather service there warning that patchy blowing snow could significantly reduce visibility.
With the risk of getting trapped in a car on a snowy road a reality, officials are urging those who venture onto the roads to be prepared.
“Bring chains and know how to use them. Bring an emergency kit that includes warm clothes, snacks and water in case you are delayed. Make sure your vehicle is ready with good tires and working wiper blades,” the Oregon Department of Transportation said.
While the Northeast and West Coast prepare for more snow, residents in Central US are recovering from tornadoes and severe winds.
The central US received 14 tornado reports on Sunday – including 9 in Oklahoma – and another five in Illinois on Monday.
In Oklahoma, the storm ripped roofs off homes, flipped cars, downed trees, littered neighborhoods with debris. So far, as many as twelve people have been reported injured in Oklahoma from the storms.
Officials in Oklahoma are still assessing the damage, though the most concentrated impacts appear to be in Norman, Shawnee and possibly Cheyenne, according to a spokesperson for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.
In total, more than 140 storm reports were made Sunday across the Southern Plains, mainly of wind across Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma. This also includes 14 hail reports in those states, with several hailstones reportedly 1.75 inches in diameter.
Weather experts will work to determine whether the system can be classified as a derecho, a widespread, long-lived windstorm, which typically causes damage in one direction across a relatively straight path.
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