Weather & Natural Disasters

Ice Storm, Flooding Risk Threatens Black Friday and Thanksgiving Weekend

M. Alex Johnson and Alexander Smith

A blast of cold air was threatening to whip up a Black Friday ice storm across the center of the country, according to forecasters.

A patchwork of ice-storm warnings and other watches and advisories blanketed a 900-mile stretch from New Mexico and western Texas to Missouri and the Iowa border.

Meanwhile, heavy rain was forecast further east. Parts of northern Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri were under flood warnings and flash-flood watches early Friday.

The National Weather Service announced that Dallas-Fort Worth broke its all-time yearly rainfall total at 12:14 a.m. local time (1:14 a.m. ET) on Friday, recording 53.56 inches over 2015. The area was also under a flash-flood warning.

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An estimated 47 million people would be on the roads this Thanksgiving weekend, according to the AAA, and many others would be heading to stores on Friday in search of Black Friday deals.

"It is certainly going to wreak havoc on the roadways," said Domenica Davis, a forecaster for The Weather Channel. "That will be brutal."

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Weather-related road conditions were blamed for an accident that killed two people Thursday in the Texas Panhandle near Pampa, when a semi-truck swerved out of control into oncoming traffic, the Texas Department of Public Safety said.

Even those who stayed at home could be at risk from power outages, were the ice storm to materialize as powerfully as forecasters feared.

"We could be looking at the type of ice storm that brings down trees and power lines," according to Brian Fortier, a senior meteorologist at The Weather Channel.

"Very hazardous" travel conditions were predicted in West Texas and northern New Mexico, while the Nebraska Department of Roads said nearly all roads in the western half of the state were already partly covered with ice.

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Interstate 80 was closed 27 miles east of Kearney, Nebraska, from Thursday afternoon, and conditions weren't expected to improve much until midday Saturday.

The weather system is a one-two punch, meteorologists said. Relatively warm, wet air that caused flooding in the lower Midwest and the South was being followed by a northern cold front, creating ideal conditions for ice.