“For longtime residents of southeastern Texas, southern Oklahoma, northern Louisiana and southern Arkansas, this will likely be the worst week of winter weather in your lifetime so far,” CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam said.
The winter storm making its way into the region Sunday has put parts of southern Texas under winter storm watches for the “first time in a decade,” the prediction center said.
Winter storm warnings extend throughout all 254 counties in Texas, all 77 counties in Oklahoma and all 75 counties in Arkansas. In records that go back 35 years, this appears to be the first time all Texas counties have been under a winter storm warning at the same time, according to CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller.
Heavy snowfall was forecast in areas from New Mexico to the Mississippi Valley on Sunday, the center said, while ice will glaze over the Texas coast to the Tennessee Valley into Monday.
“The swath of accumulating ice and snow on Monday is impressive, stretching from south Texas to the northern Mid-Atlantic,” it added. “Heavy snow on Monday will also blanket much of the Lower Mississippi, the Ohio Valley, into the Northeast.”
As ice accumulates, another storm takes aim
Now, parts of the region are expected to see the worst ice-related impacts Monday, while another storm will be gaining strength to begin only a day and a half later.
“With two crippling storms in five days, some people in remote areas will struggle to cope as temperatures remain below freezing and snow and ice remain on roadways,” Van Dam said. “The cumulative potential economic impact for these regions cannot be overstated.”
“Long duration, brutally cold temperatures in combination with significant ice and heavy snow will put a strain on the energy sector not experienced in years,” he added.
Impacts from the second winter storm are likely to be felt through Thursday, while details on just how powerful it could be will become clearer in the coming days.
Severe weather causes several accidents
Several multi-vehicle accidents were reported across Texas and Oklahoma on Sunday as the two states faced winter storms.
The Texas Department of Public Service reported at least four accidents along Interstate 20 in parts of Ward and Midland counties — including a 25-vehicle crash on a segment of I-20 westbound in Ward County and a six-car pileup eastbound on I-20 near Pyote.
The agency did not provide details on possible injuries and said travel was discouraged in these areas.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol said it responded to 56 non-injury collisions, 24 injury collisions and 116 motorist assists during Sunday’s storm, and the Turner Turnpike remains closed east of Oklahoma City because of a multi-vehicle accident there Sunday afternoon.
The injury crash involved multiple semitrucks and passenger vehicles. The agency tweeted photos showing at least one semitruck on fire.
“Do not get out if you don’t have to,” the agency said in the tweet.
A state of emergency was in effect for all of Oklahoma on Sunday night as the state battled the storm. The state opened three shelters for overnight stays Sunday, according to the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.
140 temperature records could be shattered
And it won’t just be freezing this week — it will be so numbingly cold that there will likely be more than 140 record-low temperatures shattered from Sunday morning through Tuesday morning, Van Dam said.
And more records could be set by mid-week, he added.
More than 55 million people are already under wind chill alerts from North Dakota southward to Texas and from Indiana west to Montana, Van Dam said.
Wind chills will range from about 60 degrees below zero Fahrenheit near the Canadian border to 20 degrees below zero across central Texas, he added.
“This initial cold blast will last through Tuesday morning with another reinforcing shot of cold arctic air entrenching itself southward to the Gulf Coast by midweek,” Van Dam said.
In Northwest, more snow coming
As the South Central United States gets battered with cold weather, snow and ice, another storm will blanket parts of the Pacific Northwest and the Northern Rockies on Sunday, Van Dam said.
Seattle already received more than a years’ worth of snow from a storm that cleared out late Saturday.
“The last time Seattle had more than 8.9 inches of snow in a day was January 27, 1969,” the service wrote.
The storm moving in on Sunday will likely drop about another 1 to 2 inches of snow before that transitions to rain in lower elevations.
Meanwhile up in the Cascades and the Northern Rockies, snow “will be measured in feet,” Van Dam said.
What this means for Covid-19 vaccines
Officials in parts of the country that will be impacted by severe weather have said vaccinations will also be affected.
Federal officials expect Covid-19 vaccine shipments to Texas will be delayed over the next week because of weather conditions, Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief W. Nim Kidd said.
“Our vaccines that are set to arrive on Sunday, Monday will probably not arrive until Wednesday, Thursday, so we will see delays in vaccine coming into the state,” Kidd said.
Some local outdoor vaccination sites have shut down ahead of the storm, the chief said.
“Indoor vaccination administration, as long as it is still safe to drive there, will continue,” Kidd added.
CNN’s Melissa Alonso, Gisela Crespo, Haley Brink, Artemis Moshtaghian and Hollie Silverman contributed to this report.