Major Winter Storm Pummeling Texas to Missouri

February 1, 2011; 9:52 AM ET
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Play video For more details on the storm and how it will affect the southern Plains, click on this video.

The first major, immobilizing winter storm of its kind this season is hitting the Plains today, snarling travel from Oklahoma City to Kansas City.

Treacherous ice and blizzard conditions with up to a foot or more of snow will end up shutting down a large portion of the region from Oklahoma to Missouri. Snow and ice have even been affecting areas as far south as Dallas, Texas.

Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport was closed for a time early this morning but has since re-opened.

The storm's reach will actually extend even farther than that, spanning from the southern Rockies to New England. As Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski pointed out on Friday, this "Groundhog Day Storm" will affect more than 100 million people.

Across the central and southern Plains, major highways and interstates are likely to be closed today, while side roads remain a frozen mess for several days. Widespread school cancellations have already taken place, and more could follow Wednesday.

Thousands of airline passengers will also face flight delays and cancellations. Nearly all Tuesday morning flights out of Oklahoma City's Will Rogers World Airport were canceled.

Visit the Winter Weather Center to view our latest snow map.

Rail operations are being impacted as well. Senior Meteorologist Alan Reppert has learned that Amtrak is bracing for significant delays.

In areas from northern Texas into Oklahoma, northwestern Arkansas, Missouri and parts of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, the snow has been or will be preceded by sleet or freezing rain today.

Freezing rain is by far the worst form of wintry precipitation. By definition, freezing rain is rain that falls and freezes on contact with surfaces such as roads, sidewalks, trees and power lines. Sleet is frozen raindrops (or ice pellets).

The sheer weight of heavy snow and ice on trees and power lines could lead to widespread power outages. Some residents could be without electricity for days.

Across Oklahoma, it has been mainly sleet preceding the snow. While sleet is less hazardous than freezing rain, it will still make roads slippery. With snow falling on top of the sleet and partially melting then refreezing, roads will become treacherous and icy for days.

Another major concern with this storm will be gusty winds that cause significant blowing and drifting of the snow with blizzard conditions. Extremely cold air blasting in behind the storm will also be dangerous for anyone left stranded. RealFeel® temperatures, which provide a measure of how cold it feels with the wind factored in, have dropped below zero all the way south into Dallas Tuesday morning. Meanwhile, these values plummeted past -20° F in Oklahoma City!

For Oklahoma City, and the state of Oklahoma in general, this is the first major winter storm of the season.

Other cities lying near or in the heart of this storm include Wichita, Kan., Kansas City, Springfield and St. Louis, Mo. Snowfall totals are expected to reach 6-12 inches in these places with some locations picking up more than a foot.

Sosnowski has more details has more details on how bad this storm is from Chicago to Detroit. In addition, meteorologist Bill Deger covers the impact on the Northeast.


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