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Major ice storm hits the central US

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A major winter storm is in progress across much of the central US, extending from northern New Mexico all the way to the Ohio Valley this weekend, January 14 and 15, 2017. Significant freezing rain may cause downed trees, prolonged power outages, and travel difficulties. States of emergency have been declared in Oklahoma and Missouri. The storm, named Jupiter, has already claimed lives of three people.

"With a large arctic high pressure area in place across the north-central US and Great Lakes region, a steady supply of sub-freezing temperatures in the lowest levels of the atmosphere will be in place for the central Plains and into the middle Mississippi River valley. Aloft, moist and warmer flow will be lifted above this cold air near the surface, creating an environment favorable for widespread freezing rain," the National Weather Service said.

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Ice storm warnings are in effect from the Texas Panhandle to southern Illinois, with freezing rain advisories across parts of the Ohio Valley and the central Appalachians. Ice amounts in excess of a half inch are possible in some areas of the central Plains, which is enough to cause severe travel disruptions and power outages. Snow and sleet are likely on the north side of this shield of precipitation.

"Expect a glaze of ice to develop on elevated surfaces including trees, powerlines, bridges and overpasses," the National Weather Service said. "This will create hazardous driving conditions."

Forecasters said that ice accumulation from the storm could be more than 1 cm (0.4 inches), snow of up to 8 cm (3 inches) and heavy fog were also in the forecast in parts of region. This could cause prolonged power outages, up to several days.

Missouri and Oklahoma had declared states of emergency ahead of the storm as transportation officials in those states told motorists to avoid travel.

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Hundreds of schools were closed Friday in Missouri, including several campuses.

Since Friday morning, Jupiter has already claimed lives of two people. Both of them died in Missouri in car crashes caused by dangerous travel conditions.

As of Saturday morning, about 2 500 households and businesses were without power in Texas, Missouri and Oklahoma.

Featured image: Car crash after ice storm hits Kansas City, KS on January 14, 2017. Credit: Live Storms Media

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