An ice storm, which could be the worst to hit the U.S. in years, is unfolding across portions of the southern Plains this week.
The most significant icing is expected from Texas to Kentucky through Friday. Widespread power outages are likely as ice weighs down tree branches and power lines, while treacherous travel is developing in areas receiving freezing rain, sleet and snow.
"In some locations, the storm has the potential to allow one half an inch or more of ice to accumulate on the ground and accrue on elevated surfaces," AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said.
Power suppliers in the path of the ice storm are mobilizing in anticipation of major power outages. Entergy Arkansas, Inc., which serves nearly 700,000 customers in 63 counties of Arkansas, lies in the zone expected to receive ice for the longest duration.
"With a major storm that affects a large area of our territory, power restoration for all customers could take between five to seven days to complete, with the majority of customers being back in service much sooner than that," said Brady Aldy, transmission and distribution operations director for Entergy Arkansas, Inc.
In a press release, Entergy Arkansas, Inc., said they are bringing in 6,700 workers to prepare for the storm.
According to Alabama Power, crews are heading to Texas on Thursday in order to help respond to power outages in the path of the ice storm.
UPDATES: (All times are listed in Central Time)
11:10 a.m. CST Thursday: All highways in Cimarron and Texas counties in Oklahoma are closed to over-sized loads due to snow and ice accumulations, according to the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety. Roadways are slick and dangerous, and motorists are urged to use caution.
10:51 a.m. CST Thursday: Senior Vice President of AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions Mike Smith warns in his blog that a reliable index used to gauge the severity of ice storms, called the Sperry-Piltz Ice Accumulation Index, is indicating that areas in southeastern Oklahoma and Arkansas (just west of Memphis--shown in the purple color below) will have "prolonged and widespread utility interruption" with "outages lasting 5 to 10 days."
10:23 a.m. CST Thursday: The Texas Department of Transportation is listing icy and snowy roads around Odessa, Abilene and Lubbock. Crews out out to ice roadways and bridges but they are advising extreme caution for drivers.
9:45 a.m. CST Thursday: "Moderate freezing rain is falling from Fayetteville to Fort Smith, Ark.," AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said.
A local interactive radar snapshot shows the area getting the heaviest icing at this time: