Punxsutawney Phil made his yearly weather prediction in Pennsylvania on Wednesday. The famous groundhog didn't see his shadow, which means spring is on the way, if legend holds true. But in many parts of the United States, it's hard to picture warm temperatures and sunny skies right now—especially as dangerously frigid weather sweeps through much of the country.
Forecasters are calling the monster storm one of the worst in decades. Deep snow, thick ice and gusty winds have brought cities stretching from the Midwest to the Northeast and as far south as Texas to a standstill. Airport and road closures have left thousands of travelers stranded. Some motorists had to be rescued after their vehicles became stuck in mounting snow drifts. Schools across the region were shut.
A Record Storm
By midday, more than 20 inches of snow had fallen in Chicago, Illinois. At least a foot of snow was dumped on parts of Missouri, Indiana, Kansas, Oklahoma and upstate New York. A mix of freezing rain and sleet was expected to create nearly an inch of ice on the ground in New York City before temperatures were to rise in the late afternoon.
Icy conditions are also causing power problems in the region. More than 200,000 homes and businesses in Ohio were without electricity Wednesday morning. Meanwhile, in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, more than 100,000 customers started the day without power.
A storm like this is very rare, says meteorologist Thomas Spriggs, of the National Weather Service. "A storm that produces a swath of 20-inch snow is really something we'd see once every 50 years, maybe," Spriggs said.
The Cold Continues
Even as skies begin to clear in the Midwest, forecasters warn that the bitter cold will remain. Overnight temperatures are expected to fall to between -5 and -20 degrees in northern Illinois. With wind chills, it will feel like 20 to 30 degrees below zero.
"Our big concern at this point is cold air behind the system," said Eric Lenning, a weather service meteorologist in the Chicago area. "We're definitely not out of woods yet in terms of dangerous winter weather." At least 10 storm-related deaths have been reported.