A large tract of America can expect "a major icing event," the National Weather Service says, predicting snow and ice in an area that includes at least eight states from Texas to the Ohio Valley. The winter storm has already hit Western towns; some will endure lows far below zero this weekend, forecasters say.
Millions of people could be affected by the snow, freezing rain and ice, which is expected to make travel hazardous and cause power outages. Crews in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee and elsewhere are already busy trying to clear roads of dangerous ice.
"This will be the worst ice storm for the United States since January 2009 and will affect many of the same areas as that storm," says AccuWeather's Jesse Ferrell.
From the U.S. weather service:
"A major icing event is forecast through Friday across portions of the southern Great Plains toward the Lower Ohio Valley, where Winter and Ice Storm Warnings are in effect. Prolonged power outages are possible for this region. This storm system will also bring heavy snow from the Ohio Valley to the mid-Miss. Valley, with heavy rain possible from the central Appalachians to the lower Miss. Valley."
The agency is also predicting dire and dangerous weather in the South:
"As the front settles over the Southeast, rain will develop over the Western/Central Gulf Coast into the Southeast and Southern Mid-Atlantic by Saturday evening. A new band of sleet/freezing rain will develop over parts of eastern Texas also on Saturday evening."
In northern portions of the West Coast and a wider area extending to the central Rockies the weather service says people should get ready for more rain and snow Friday and Saturday.
In Denver, temperatures aren't expected to rise above the teens all weekend; there's a chance of snow on Saturday and Sunday, according to The Denver Post.
It'll be even colder north and west of Denver, where lows could reach 50 degrees below zero in parts of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and the Dakotas.
And more precipitation is also expected in the West. The NWS forecast calls for rain in parts of central and Southern California on Saturday.
"Additionally, snow will move into parts of the Great Basin/Southwest and the Northern/Central Rockies on Saturday," the weather agency says. "Snow will also develop over parts of the Central Plains by Saturday evening."
The effects of the massive band of cold air that's moving into the East are still being felt in the West, where farmers in California have put in long hours this week trying to save part of the state's $2 billion citrus crop, in addition to lettuces and avocados. They're harvesting during the day and nursing their plants at night, using water and fans to keep them from falling prey to dangerously low temperatures.
"We need the cold air to color up the fruit and bring up the flavor," Bob Blakely, director of industry relations for California Citrus Mutual, an association of growers, tells the AP. "It's our greatest blessing, but if it gets too cold, it can be a curse."
Parts of Southern California are expected to get a break from the cold this weekend.
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