More than 1,500 flights canceled as fatal ice storm sweeps the South

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By Amit

More than 1,500 flights within, to and from the United States were canceled Tuesday as a fatal ice storm swept over parts of the South.

The storm was concentrated in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, leaving the region hit the hardest with travel issues, with 742 flights canceled at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, according to the online flight tracker FlightAware

The area is home to both American Airlines and Southwest Airlines and as of early Tuesday, at least 559 Southwest flights were listed as canceled, along with 507 American Airlines flights. At least 314 Southwest flights were delayed, while 390 American Airlines flights were also listed as delayed, according to FlightAware.

The Federal Aviation Administration warned that freezing rain and ice may slow flights at Dallas-Fort Worth International and Memphis International airports.

One person is dead in Austin after a weather-related multiple vehicle collision, according to Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services.

“Pretty much all of the collisions that we are responding to right now are weather-related,” a spokesperson told NBC News. “Basically, all of the elevated roadways and overpasses in the Austin and Travis County area are iced over.”

The ice storm was expected to be “prolonged and significant” and to “continue impacting a large area from the southern Plains to the Tennessee Valley,” according to the National Weather Service.

It said the “dangerous” ice storm is expected to continue into at least early Thursday, bringing cold air, freezing rain and sleet, along with travel chaos and delays.

“Widespread total ice accretion of greater than 0.25” is likely from West Texas to western Tennessee, with localized areas receiving as much as 0.75, the weather service said. That amount of ice, it warned, could lead to hazardous travel conditions, along with tree damage and scattered power outages across the hardest-hit regions.

Soldiers from the 142nd Field Artillery Brigade in Lowell, Ark., prepare as inclement weather bears down on the region Jan. 30.Arkansas National Guard

Sleet accumulations around a half inch or higher are also possible from West Texas to Arkansas, which the weather service said could lead to “treacherous” travel conditions.

Ice storm warnings, winter storm warnings and winter weather advisories have been issued in affected areas, it said, warning travelers to check road conditions before heading out anywhere and to drive with extreme caution.

During a news conference on Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott said the state may even see potential flash flooding on Wednesday and Thursday in central, east and southeast Texas.

Abbott also urged residents to avoid the roads due to the hazardous icing, adding that approximately 1,600 roads in the state have been impacted by the storm.

“Because of the icing, many roads in Texas will remain very dangerous for the next 24 to 48 hours,” he said. “Be cautious, especially for things like black ice.”

As of Tuesday morning, Texas had 7,000 power outages, which are all being addressed, Abbott said, adding that while some local outages are expected, there won’t be major issues with the power grid.

In Forth Worth, ambulance service MedStar responded to 142 motor vehicle crashes within 24 hours of the winter storm, with 19 of them happening overnight, spokesperson Matt Zavadsky said. Sixteen of those crashes were rollover crashes.

MedStar also responded to eight patients suffering from hypothermia. Seven patients were transported to local hospitals with five in serious condition. The ambulance service also reported that nine patients were injured from slipping on ice.

And a multiple vehicle collision in Austin due to “icing” left two people “with serious potentially life-threatening injuries,” Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services said on Twitter.

Emergency services are encouraging residents to stay home and off the roads if they can.

The cold air mass bringing cold to the mid-South is also expected to bring well-below-average temperatures and wind chills throughout the central and the western U.S., the weather service said.

Wind chill warnings and advisories have been issued across the central and the northern Plains, as well as for parts of the Intermountain West.

Colin Sheeley contributed.

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