Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas and Missouri are facing what could become the worst ice storm in 25 years.
Described by forecasters as a potentially "paralyzing event," the storm could lead to extended power outages and serious disruptions in commerce and supplies. An inch-thick sheet of ice could cover large portions of Oklahoma and its neighboring states by the close of the weekend.
Emergency managers were already predicting serious power outages and travel delays that could affect millions of people as a mixture of freezing rain, sleet and snow blankets a huge area. Rural areas were concerned that farmers will have trouble caring for livestock.
Oklahoma began seeing the first effects of the potentially crippling ice storm on Friday, and conditions will rapidly deteriorate in the Texas Panhandle and eastern Missouri as well, forecasters warned.
Gov. Brad Henry declared a state of emergency for the entire state. "We're taking these actions so that the state will be in the best possible position to respond to the storm. I would urge all Oklahomans to exercise extreme caution if they have to venture outside," said Gov. Henry.
Traffic accidents were being reported Friday, and schools and offices were shutting down early.
Ice storm warnings are in effect for western, central and far northeastern Oklahoma through Sunday evening. The storm will also move into southeast Kansas and central Missouri.
Temperatures could be in the low 20s until the middle of next week.
Over the weekend, the storm could spread as far east as Ohio and New York.
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