Winter has arrived. A fierce storm tore through Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and other parts of the Southwest on Sunday, November 24, creating dangerous conditions on roads and airport runways. The wicked weather is responsible for at least eight deaths and has left thousands of people stranded as they prepare for one of the busiest travel days of the year. “It’s certainly going to be a travel impact as we see the first few people making their way for Thanksgiving,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Tom Bradshaw.
A Wicked Wintry Mix
Residents in the Southern Plains and Southern Rockies woke up to a wintry mix yesterday morning. Rain and sleet began falling north of Dallas, Texas, by midday. Parts of Oklahoma were issued a winter storm warning after several inches of snow fell in the southwestern region. Flagstaff, a city in northern Arizona, had 11 inches of snow early Sunday. Central areas of the state experienced between 1 ½ and 2 ½ inches of rain while the storm raged on. Regions in higher elevations in New Mexico experience near whiteout storm conditions.
This mix of rain, snow, and sleet has caused hundreds of car accidents, several of them fatal. Ice and snow on runways forced Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, in Texas, to cancel more than 300 flights. Though the airport has deicers ready for use, the storm’s next move is difficult to predict. “It’s slow moving and it’s sort of bringing its energy out in pieces,” Bradshaw said. “It’s hard to time these as they come across with a great deal of accuracy.”
According to travel organization AAA, the Thanksgiving holiday travel period for 2013 is defined as Wednesday, November 27, to Sunday, December 1. About 43.4 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, AAA said in a press release. Cancellations in Fort Worth are forcing fliers to find travel alternatives, causing a backup in the entire air-travel system.
Meteorologists predict the storm to move east as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, with the worst weather expected Tuesday and Wednesday.