Ice Storm Hits Majority of the U.S.

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A major storm has hit the largest part of the western U.S. Thursday, and continues to wreak havoc on this country - causing flight cancellations, traffic accidents, school closings, and overall treacherous conditions that are expected to last through the weekend.

"Its not only the ice and snow, but freezing temperatures have made Saturday the coldest Dec. 7 on record in much of the Great Plains and Tennessee Valley," said Brian Hurley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Record breaking cold temps, inches of ice and a storm, now being called "Cleon" have left many without power, all caused by a low-lying cold air mass moving south and east meeting a higher level of warm air moving off the Gulf of Mexico.

“So precipitation falls as rain, and when it gets down to the cold layer, it turns into sleet, and once it hits the ground, it turns into ice,” says Ken Clark, expert senior meteorologist for AccuWeather, who is based in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. “We’re looking at travel woes for the next couple of days.”

Meanwhile, temperatures in the central and western US will be around 10 to 30 degrees F., way below normal for several days. In some areas of the northern Plains, high temperatures will remain below zero.

“This is brutally cold air,” Clark says.

Though the storm has passed in the west, places that aren't accustomed to cold and freezing temps, like Oregon, whose temperatures are much lower than normal and in many places breaking records, problems exist. People just aren't used to icy roads and accidents are frequent, as are frozen pipes and broken tree limbs.

"In Eugene, temperatures are expected to get as low as minus 4 early Sunday morning, the lowest since 1972," said Andy Bryant, a National Weather Service hydrologist in Portland.

In Texas, by 7 a.m. Friday morning, power outages affected at least 236,000 customers, from the northwest part of the state south to Austin, according to energy company Oncor, which supplies power to 3 million homes in Texas.

The storm has passed the western U.S. but is heading east, taking no prisoners along the way, as it isn't expected to lose steam. The east coast will see the snow and ice starting Sunday, and New York by Monday morning.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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