Winter’s icy grip wreaked havoc across a wide swath of the northern U.S. on Tuesday, bringing sleet, snow, ice, power outages and commuter headaches to more than 100 million people from Seattle to Boston.
The worst of Tuesday’s eastern storm will wind down Wednesday, though strong winds and snow showers will still create a wintry feel in the Midwest and Northeast.
Meanwhile, for folks in the West, the weather misery is only getting started: The storm that slammed Washington state Tuesday will roar down the coast into California over the next few days, walloping the region with torrential rain and yards of snow.
“The worst of the storm is forecast to focus on central and northern California, with a heightened threat of flooding, mudslides, erosion, power outages, avalanches and road-closing snowfall in the mountains,” AccuWeather meteorologist Alex Sosnowski warned.
On Tuesday, while the eastern storm dumped snow and ice on the Midwest and Northeast, it also brought rain, floods, high winds and tornado warnings to the Southeast, AccuWeather meteorologist Tyler Roys said.
“This storm is unique in that it brought a significant storm to Seattle and a wintry mess to so many big cities – Chicago, Detroit, New York and Boston,” Roys told USA TODAY. “When you include the South, the storm is impacting almost every part of the United States in some shape or form.”
As of late Tuesday, almost 90,000 homes and businesses were without power in Washington state alone, and another 100,000 plus in the Midwest and South.
More than 4,000 flights were canceled or delayed nationwide, including 1,000 in and out of New York’s Kennedy and LaGuardia airports.
Newark International Airport reported some incoming flights were being delayed at departure cities by four hours.
Commuters across most of the nation’s northern tier were also affected by the snow and ice. As much as a foot and a half of snow pasted portions of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan over the past few days, the National Weather Service said.
“Expect your drive to be at least twice as long,” Michigan’s Transportation Department warned Detroit commuters. “Icy rain making for tough driving conditions. SLOW DOWN!”
Parts of northern New Jersey were bracing for up to 8 inches of snow and ice, and Gov. Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency for the entire state. Upstate New York and northern New England could see up to 18 inches.
Areas north of Baltimore were hit with more than 5 inches of snow Monday topped by sleet and freezing rain Tuesday. In Philadelphia, a passenger was injured when a SEPTA bus jackknifed and crashed into a North Philadelphia home on a snowy, slick street.
Schools in Seattle and across much of the area were shuttered for a second straight day Tuesday as a mix of rain and snow continued to fall across the region.
The city, which averages less than 7 inches of snow a year, already has seen three times that amount. Boston’s snow total this month, before Tuesday: 0 inches. Seattle: 20.2 inches.
The 20.2 inches of snow this month at Sea-Tac airport makes it the snowiest February on record for that location, the Weather Service said.
And in downtown Seattle, only one other February had more snow: In 1916, when 35.4 inches fell.
“Here’s another statistic that sets this month apart,” the Seattle Weather Service office tweeted. “Including ALL months going back to 1894, there have been only been 5 months (including this one) in which 6+ inch snowfall occurred twice in the same month.”
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Even Hawaii had been under siege, although the storms eased Tuesday. The state Parks Division reported that “for perhaps the first time ever” snow fell in a Hawaii state park.
Sixty-foot waves and wind gusts up to 191 mph also were part of a fierce weekend storm that toppled trees and power lines.
“The forecasters were calling this an unprecedented event and we concur,” said Sam Lemmo, administrator for Hawaii’s Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands. “We rarely if ever have seen the combination of record high on-shore waves, coupled with gale-force winds.”