A wintry storm caked the US' center with a thick layer of ice, blacking out more than 600,000 homes and businesses, and more icy weather was on the way. At least 18 deaths in Oklahoma and Missouri were blamed on the conditions, with 15 of them killed on slick highways.
A state of emergency was declared for all of Oklahoma, where the sound of branches snapping under the weight of the ice echoed through Oklahoma City.
"You can hear them falling everywhere," Lonnie Compton said on Monday as he shoveled ice off his driveway.
The National Weather Service posted ice and winter storm warnings yesterday for parts of Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois. Missouri declared an emergency on Sunday and put the National Guard on alert.
Oklahoma utilities said half a million customers were blacked out as power lines snapped under the weight of ice and falling tree branches, the biggest power outage in state history, and utilities in Missouri said more than 100,000 homes and business had no power there.
"If you do the math, probably one out of three Oklahomans has no electricity at this point," said Gil Broyles, a spokesman for Oklahoma Gas & Electric, the state's largest utility.
Roughly 11,000 customers were blacked out in southern Illinois and more than 5,000 had no electric heat or lights in Kansas, where Governor Kathleen Sebelius declared a statewide state of emergency.
At O'Hare International Airport, about 200 flights were canceled on Monday, with delays of about 45 minutes, said Chicago Department of Aviation spokeswoman Karen Pride. Fewer than a dozen flights were canceled at Midway Airport, and a handful of flights were delayed about an hour, she said.
Ice was as much as 2.5cm thick on tree limbs and power lines in parts of the region.
Schools across Oklahoma were closed and some hospitals were relying on backup power generators. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers sent 50 generators and three truckloads of bottled water from Texas to distribute to blacked-out areas of Oklahoma.
Tulsa International Airport had no power for about 10 hours and halted flight operations for the day, and most morning flights at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City were canceled because of icy runways.
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