'Ferocious' winter storm tearing across the US, heading for the East Coast: Updates

Author: Christopher Cann Doyle Rice Dinah Voyles Pulver Source: USA Today
January 9, 2024 at 07:25

Tornado watch extends from Louisiana to Florida


Northeast digs out after weekend storm
Snow blankets the Northeast after a weekend storm, setting the stage for another powerful system in the coming days

Editor's Note: For the latest news on the winter storm, please see our live updates file here.

After a pair of winter storms slammed both coasts with heavy snow, a massive cyclone is threatening the central and eastern United States with extreme weather as it moves across the country.

In all, 49 of the 50 U.S. states have some level of weather alert in effect as of midday Monday. Only North Dakota is alert-free.

The storm will bring snow, rain, wind, potential blizzards and tornadoes as it makes its way from the Four Corners region, where it developed late Sunday, to the Northeast, according to the National Weather Service. From Monday to Tuesday, the storm will have spread over more than 30 states across the eastern U.S., AccuWeather said.

Late Sunday, heavy snow and weather-related crashes closed large portions of highways in the Four Corners region. Officials advised people to delay any travel that was not essential. Blizzard warnings were in effect from northeast Arizona to southern Nebraska, where up to a foot of snow had fallen by Monday morning.

The major storm continued to develop over the Central and Southern Plains on Monday afternoon as it advances into the Midwest into Tuesday, bringing heavy snow and powerful winds, according to the weather service.

"Wind gusts as high as 60-70 mph will create ferocious blizzard conditions with whiteouts," said an early morning advisory from the weather service. "Travel will become extremely dangerous to impossible. If you must travel, pack a winter survival kit as wind chills will plummet below zero."

Back-to-back storms were also set to slam the Pacific Northwest with intense snowfall and strong winds. And as the large winter storm moves across the eastern U.S., the Gulf Coast region from Louisiana to northern Florida is forecast to receive intense rainfall and winds capable of kicking up tornadoes.

The series of winter storms, which had most of the country under storm warnings and advisories on Monday, follows a weekend of travel delays and power outages across the Northeast after a winter storm dumped up to 22 inches of snow in New England.


∎ Winds as high as 50-64 mph were reported in parts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Kansas on Monday evening, the weather service said.

∎ Blizzard conditions were reported in Clovis, New Mexico, where U.S. 60 was closed and numerous accidents were reported, the weather service said.

∎ Flash flooding was reported in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, with several inches of water over Interstate 12 between Covington and Slidell, Louisiana around 6 p.m, Central Time.

∎ The weather service issued a tornado warning for parts of San Jacinto County and Polk County in southeastern Texas until 3:15 p.m. local time Monday. Residents were urged to move to a basement or interior room on the lowest floor and avoid windows. The agency detected a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado at 2:32 p.m. near Point Blank, headed northeast at 40 mph.

∎ Blizzard warnings will go into effect Tuesday at 4 a.m. for areas of central Washington and Oregon, according to the weather service. Both states, as well as northern California, were under winter storm warnings on Monday ahead of a storm that is expected to bring up to 12 inches of snow and wind gusts of up to 60 mph to the region.

∎ Multiple crashes have been reported in Utah, where icy roads led the state's highway patrol to respond to over 180 traffic accidents on Sunday. By evening, up to 17 inches of snow had been reported at Brighton Crest near Salt Lake City and 16 inches at Cache.

∎ Over 700 flights across the country have been delayed and 86 canceled Monday afternoon as most parts of the country are dealing with intense weather conditions, according to FlightAware. Denver International Airport, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport have the most delays as of Monday afternoon.

A snowplow clears the parking lot outside the Horizon Family Restaurant on Jan. 8, 2024, in Sioux City, Iowa.
A snowplow clears the parking lot outside the Horizon Family Restaurant on Jan. 8, 2024, in Sioux City, Iowa.

Tornado watch extends from Louisiana to Florida

The Storm Prediction Center extended a tornado watch Monday evening to include southeastern Louisiana, southern Mississippi and Alabama, and the western Florida Panhandle.

The watch, which means conditions are favorable for tornadoes, stretches from roughly 70 miles north and south of a line northwest of Houma, Louisiana to 40 miles northeast of Panama City, Florida. 

The squall line is expected to strengthen while moving eastward from Louisiana overnight and approach the Florida Panhandle closer to sunrise. Several tornadoes are likely, with a couple of intense tornadoes possible, the Storm Prediction Center said in an update just before 10 p.m. Strong damaging winds are expected, with gusts up to 75 mph.

Snowfall in western Texas: 'It hasn't been this bad in years'

In Texline, Texas, a small town of about 500 people near the New Mexico state line, heavy snowfall and powerful winds gusts began at about 7 a.m. local time.

“I can’t see anything outside,” Isamar Espino, 25, told USA TODAY. “It’s just pure white.”

Espino is a server at her uncle's Texline restaurant, Maria’s Country Kitchen. When she left for work Monday around 5:30 a.m., there was no sign of what was to come. Within two hours, the wind blew open the back door and snow began piling up against the front windows. Espino and her uncle swept out the wet snow from the back and continued working, though there were barely any customers through the morning.

“It hasn’t been this bad in years,” she said. 

Waiting for the storm in Kansas

Suzanne Geisbrecht, 39, upon reading weather reports and waking up to dense fog Monday morning, decided to close her coffee shop early so she can prepare for the storm.

“It looks like it’s going to get bad this afternoon,” she said. Geisbrecht owns The Coffee Station in Sublette, a city of about 1,400 people in southwest Kansas.

The public school district in Sublette canceled class and after-school activities, citing the expected inclement weather.

Severe thunderstorm risk for Gulf Coast

Beginning Monday afternoon and into Tuesday morning, severe thunderstorms capable of producing tornadoes will threaten the Gulf Coast. Metro areas at greatest risk include Houston and New Orleans.

Storm warnings stretch from southeast Texas, across southeastern Alabama, northern Florida and parts of the Coastal Plain, according to the National Weather Service. River, coastal and flash flooding is expected for the central Gulf Coast as the storm dumps torrential rain over the region.

Several school districts in the Florida Panhandle announced that classes would be canceled Tuesday because of the predicted severe weather outbreak.

The greatest risk of tornadoes across the Gulf Coast, with winds exceeding 70 mph, is Tuesday from 2 a.m. to 9 a.m., according to the weather service. Overnight tornadoes are more dangerous than those that form during the daytime, experts say. This is because people are sleeping and are less likely to receive and respond to warnings. Tornadoes are also much more difficult to spot at night.

"Don't let nighttime storms surprise you! Have a plan, know what to do when warnings are issued, and ensure your weather radio works properly," the weather service advises.

Parts of Louisiana, southern Mississippi and Alabama were under threat of excessive rainfall Monday afternoon before the storm continues north into the mid-Atlantic region, where it could worsen conditions following a recent storm that left large portions of the region under a foot of snow.

Widespread wind gusts in excess of 50 mph are likely in the eastern Gulf Coast, Central Appalachians, much of the East Coast and New England, according to the weather service. Meteorologists ask that people prepare for power outages and travel delays.

Heavy rain, strong winds to hit East Coast on Tuesday

On Tuesday, the storm will unleash ferocious winds and heavy rain across much of the eastern U.S. "Widespread wind gusts in excess of 50 mph are likely in the eastern Gulf Coast, Central Appalachians, much of the East Coast and New England," the weather service said. "Prepare for power outages."

By 1 a.m. ET on Tuesday, nearly 200,000 power outages had been reported across the country, primarily in Texas and Alabama, each with more than 40,000 reported outages.

OFF THE GRID: United States Power Outage Tracker

Drenching rain is also likely in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast on Tuesday, forecasters warned, which will likely lead to flash and river flooding. "Initially, the storm is likely to bring a burst of heavy snow and perhaps a period of ice or wintry mix across parts of the central Appalachians and New England for a time on Tuesday," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dan Pydynowski said. "But, the most notable impact from the upcoming storm will be high winds and flooding rainfall."

Snow, strong winds expected in Pacific Northwest

Back-to-back powerful storms will cross the Pacific Northwest on Monday night and Tuesday night, according to the National Weather Service. Heavy snow and strong winds are expected.

For the Cascade Range, snow levels will rise to around 5,000 feet Monday night with an atmospheric river, the weather service said. But it will "quickly fall" to 1,500 to 2,500 feet behind a cold front on Tuesday, which will lead to considerable impacts for many mountain passes with the second storm.

High surf and strong onshore winds are also expected early this week on the Washington and Oregon coastlines.

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