It’s a winter mess from the Southwest to the Northeast

Posted at 12:30 PM, Dec 06, 2013
and last updated 2013-12-06 14:30:34-05

By Marlena Baldacci and Ed Payne

(CNN) — No matter how you spell it, ice is a four-letter word Friday.

Just ask folks living anywhere from Texas to Tennessee.

Across this swath of America, birthday plans have been canceled, long-awaited reunions put on hold and weekend plans have become uncertain.

To put some perspective on the scope of the storm, consider that Hot Springs, Arkansas, experienced a record high of 75 on Wednesday. By Friday morning, the city was in the middle of an ice storm.

On Friday, it was colder in Dallas (26 degrees) than in Anchorage, Alaska, (34 degrees).

Those areas are in the bull’s-eye of a treacherous ice storm, threatening to coat everything in its path with up to an inch of frozen water.

Ice is slippery, but also heavy. It tends to bring down tree limbs and power lines when accumulations get thick.

Storm deaths

In some cases, the weather has been deadly. At least four deaths have been attributed to the storm.

In Texas, a passenger in a car was killed Thursday in Hockley County when the vehicle lost control and crashed into another car, Sgt. Bryan Witt of the Texas Department of Public Safety told CNN.

An Arkansas man was killed late Thursday evening when a tree fell on his camper in Pope County, Tommy Jackson, an Arkansas Department of Emergency Management spokesman, said Friday. Jackson said the death was related to the weather but couldn’t provide details about the weather at the time. Rain and freezing rain were reported in the area Thursday night.

Highway Patrol officials in Oklahoma blamed two deaths on the weather — one in Owasso and the other in Muskogee — but did not release details of those incidents.

Officers have responded to 106 weather-related crashes since Thursday morning.

About 116 storm-related injuries have been reported in Oklahoma, including 48 falls, the state health department said.

Getting ready

In Tennessee, Memphis Light, Gas and Water has 426,000 customers and is ready for the worst.

“MLGW employees have been monitoring this winter storm situation and we have all of our resources in place should the winter weather hit Memphis and Shelby County,” said Jerry Collins Jr., the company’s president and CEO. “If indeed a significant storm blankets our city, we are ready to respond.”

The ice also makes travel messy, real messy.

Road crews in Memphis are ready to throw down 4,000 tons of sand to give drivers needed traction, CNN affiliate WMC reported.

The governors of Tennessee and Arkansas declared states of emergency ahead of the worst of the storm.

“The most unsettling aspect about Arkansas’ weather for most of us is its looming uncertainty,” said Mike Beebe, the governor of that state.

“During severe weather season, we know when conditions are ripe for tornadoes, but never exactly where and when they could strike. In winter, that uncertainty takes a different form but can still create widespread anxiety,” he said.

“Often, only a few degrees above or below the freezing mark can make the difference between a cold rain, a blanket of snow, an ice storm or a mixture of all of the above.”

In the Dallas-Forth World area, roads were passable overnight, but it was a fine line as temperatures slipped below freezing. The slushy mess slowly turned into crunchy, bumpy ice.

Police urged caution for anyone on the road and reported 21 major car accidents and 32 minor ones Friday.

According to energy provider Oncor, more than 200,000 customers were without power in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area as of Friday morning. This is the largest concentration of outages, with scattered outages elsewhere in the state.

Nearly 30,000 were without power in Arkansas, energy companies reported.

A dark cloud over Dallas events

The National Weather Service predicts a wintry mix of precipitation through Sunday.

That forecast prompted the cancellation of a downtown Dallas holiday parade scheduled for Saturday for the first time in 26 years.

The Dallas Marathon, which typically attracts 25,000 runners, plus family and friends, is still expected to be run Sunday.

“We want to give the race every opportunity to occur, yet being mindful to what the weather may bring us,” Deputy Chief Michael Genovesi of the Dallas Police Department told WFAA.

He said the course will be evaluated several times between now and race time, with a final call coming no later than Saturday.

“Our primary interest is making sure that event, if it goes off, is done safely,” he said. “Public safety will be our guiding concern.”

While the focus Friday was on the ice storm stretching from Dallas to Memphis, Mother Nature looked ready to throw another punch.

A new storm entered the West, bringing snow to the Pacific Coast on Friday. The storm brought significant snowfall to Portland, Oregon, and there is a chance for rare snow in Las Vegas on Saturday. This storm will bring another round of winter weather to the East by late in the weekend.

CNN’s Jason Morris and Dave Hennen contributed to this report.

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