Severe central US ice storm to cut power, immobilize travel and cause damage

By Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
January 15, 2017, 5:01:05 PM EST

    For the latest reports from the ongoing ice storm, click here.

    The Ice Storm of 2017 will remain a danger to lives and property as it expands northward across the central United States into Monday.

    A shallow layer of cold air in the atmosphere will continue to accompany a storm over the central United States. The storm will produce a large swath of freezing rain over the central U.S.

    As the chilled rain falls on cold surfaces, it will freeze into a thin glaze of ice. The transparent and slippery nature of the ice will be a great hazard for motorists and pedestrians.

    Travel will be hazardous for hundreds of miles along Interstate 35, I-70 and I-80 in the Central states. Thousands more residents could lose power.

    Heavy ice to down trees, power lines

    After the central Plains received a welcome break from the freezing rain on Saturday morning, the ice has resumed in full force.

    By Sunday morning, 0.50 of an inch or more of ice accretion was recorded from the northern Texas panhandle to southwestern Missouri.

    Ice storm Jan 15

    Ice will continue to expand northeastward into Monday, reaching most of the I-90 corridor in Minnesota, Wisconsin and northern Illinois by daybreak.

    A bit of freezing drizzle will glaze Chicago for the Monday morning commute. Minimal icing is expected, but any ice will create slick spots.

    Untreated sidewalks, streets and highways will turn into a skating rink as a layer of clear, smooth ice forms.

    From the northern Texas panhandle to eastern Nebraska and western Iowa, the thickness of the ice will become substantial enough to weigh down more trees and power lines. Ice accretion will reach or exceed 0.25 of an inch in this zone.

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    Falling trees can cause additional damage and bodily harm, as well as creating more hardships for crews working to restore power or keep roads clear of ice.

    Cities facing icy conditions with possible significant tree damage and power outages include Dodge City and Topeka, Kansas; Omaha, Nebraska; and Des Moines, Iowa.

    Along the western fringe of the ice storm in the central High Plains, heavy snow can fall on top of the ice, which could add to the risk of downed trees and power outages.

    Plains snow Jan 15 Eve

    Despite the hazards to lives and property, there is an agricultural benefit to the ice storm and snow.

    “The winter storm has been a big boost for the hard red winter wheat belt in the central and southern Plains, which has suffered from below-normal precipitation since last fall," AccuWeather Meteorologist Jim Andrews said.

    The icy mix will spread to Minneapolis; Green Bay, Wisconsin; and Detroit on Monday afternoon, while conditions gradually improve from Kansas to the Texas panhandle. Temperatures will crawl a few degrees above normal in the High Plains of these states.

    Further warming will occur across the entire central Plains Tuesday into Wednesday with the warmth holding through late week. While that will allow the ice to melt, icy spots can return at night where temperatures drop back below freezing.

    For safety and preparedness tips, visit

    Infographic: How to prepare for an ice storm

    Content contributed by AccuWeather Meteorologists Renee Duff and Kristina Pydynowski.

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