Fierce weather hammered Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma over the long holiday weekend, claiming at least fourteen lives as freezing rain caused accidents and flood waters swept people from their cars.
Eight people were killed in floods in North Texas, WFAA-TV reported. At least six others died as a result of accidents related to ice storms in Kansas and Oklahoma, the Associated Press reported.
Ice accumulation was up to an inch thick in north central Oklahoma on one of the nation’s busiest travel weekends. About 100 crashes were reported in the Texas panhandle and south Plains through late Friday.
“It’s a very dangerous situation when you get temperatures like that near freezing. The ice may look like it’s just water,” said Alex Sosnowski, Accuweather senior meteorologist. “The fact is when ice is near freezing, it’s much slipperier than when it goes down near 20 degrees.”
The storm will make it difficult for millions to get home Sunday after the long Thanksgiving weekend, AccuWeather reported.
Forecasters say temperatures on Sunday are expected to be above freezing in the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles, allowing the region to thaw out.
Rain is forecast Sunday from Texas to the Mid-Atlantic states. Freezing drizzle is expected in southern Nebraska and central Kansas, while snow is expected from Colorado to the western Dakotas.
Rainfall totals for Texas surpassed a 24-year record set at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, reaching well over 4 1/2-feet, or 55.91 inches, for the year. The 1991 record was 53.54 inches.
Weather experts have predicted a wet year across the country because of a strong El Niño, a periodic warming of tropical Pacific Ocean water that affects weather around the world.
“It’s been a pretty wet year across Texas with the El Niño pattern. There’s been lots of storms coming through in the Pacific and then they move across Mexico and into Texas,” Walker said.
Contributing: WFAA-TV (Dallas-Fort Worth), Associated Press