Some areas, including those in the nation’s capital, dealt with a messy wintry mix dominated by sleet.
The biggest story remains the freezing rain, which had already produced a swath of glaze spanning from the southern Plains, across the South and up parts of the East Coast.
Patches of freezing rain and drizzle were ongoing Thursday morning in eastern Texas between Houston and College Station. Areas farther west, such as Austin and San Antonio, were experiencing snow. The precipitation marked the southern end of a stalled cold front that stretched all the way into the Northeast.
That stagnant front, which has remained in place for more than a week, has been the focus for pooling moisture and wintry precipitation, as well as the roadway for storm systems. In East Texas and Louisiana, it has been a meteorological mess.
“Well, we’re compiling a lot of observations and data this morning,” said Shane Pendleton, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Shreveport, La. “We measured about [an eighth] of an inch of ice outside our office. It’s quite historic, a once-in-every-few-decades event.”
He explained that staff have been forced to sleep in a nearby hotel, with the “extremely treacherous” roadways too dangerous to drive on. More than 2½ inches of snow and sleet accompanied the icing.
“We had snow from winter weather earlier this week, and then got a second round ... that dropped snow, sleet and freezing rain and more refreezing overnight,” Pendleton said.
Charlie Woodrum, his colleague, noted that up to 14 inches of snow had fallen to the north in the southwest Arkansas town of Rosston, while the week had featured some of the coldest temperature readings since 1930. Tyler, Tex., broke a record dating to 1880, when the city dropped to minus-6.
The wintry weather continued up the Tennessee Valley, where sleet and ice dominated as the precipitation type.
“We had a lot of sleet,” said James LaRosa, a meteorologist at the Weather Service in Nashville. “There were two inches of sleet, which was something I hadn’t seen too much of before. Usually, freezing rain and sleet change over to snow.”
In southwest Virginia, meteorologists at the local Weather Service office had been calling for a “crippling” ice storm, with up to three-quarters of an inch of ice accretion likely. Precipitation was ongoing around lunchtime but was moving more quickly than anticipated, probably limiting amounts below what would have been a worst-case scenario.
Still, a number of locations had reported appreciable ice buildup to three-tenths of an inch, enough to result in very dangerous travel and cause isolated power outages.
North Carolina largely dodged what could have been a high-end ice event, as temperatures a few degrees warmer than expected cut back on icing. Duke Energy had originally estimated that up to a million customers would lose power in the Tar Heel State; by noontime, precipitation was tapering down, with outages numbering only 26,000 statewide. Still, patchy freezing drizzle was likely into Thursday evening.
In Washington, warm air moved in more rapidly than expected at the mid-levels of the atmosphere, eroding hopes of up to four or more inches of snow and replacing it with plentiful sleet. While pockets of light freezing or drizzle remain possible on Friday from D.C. to Baltimore and New Jersey, most places from the New York City tri-state area to southern New England will see mostly snow.
In northern New Jersey, heavy snow was falling midday Thursday, with rates of up to an inch per hour, including in Philadelphia.
Accumulating snow will be relegated mostly to areas south of Interstate 90 in Massachusetts, with a very sharp northern cutoff in snow totals.
Three to six inches is possible on eastern Long Island, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, while southern Connecticut, Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts — including Plymouth and Bristol counties and the Cape — may see only a couple of inches. Only a coating to two inches was likely north of a line from Hartford, Conn., to Providence, R.I.
Cool air will hang around the East Coast after this storm, before a warm-up early next week.