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Houston airports close, 3,500+ flights canceled as winter storm pounds southern US

A winter storm pummeled the Midwest and South Monday, closing both of Houston's airports and racking up more than 3,500 canceled flights.

In a Monday afternoon tweet, George Bush Intercontinental Airport announced it would be closed until at least 1 p.m. CST Tuesday and asked travelers to stay away from the airport. It was a similar story at William P. Hobby, which said it would close until noon on Tuesday. At Dallas-Fort Worth International, icy conditions resulted in inbound flights being held and the shutdown of the airport's Skylink light-rail system due to ice and low temperatures.

More than 150 million people were under a winter storm warning, winter weather advisory or ice storm warning in 25 states, stretching over 2,000 miles from southern Texas to northern Maine, the National Weather Service said.

Power outages were widespread Monday. In Texas alone, more than 2.5 million customers were in the dark as of 2 p.m. local time, according to power, a utility tracking site.

The NWS predicted heavy snow and significant ice accumulations from Tennessee and Ohio Valleys to the Northeast and said that "frigid Arctic air and dangerously cold wind" would persist in the Great Plains and Mississippi Valley through midweek.

"This impressive onslaught of wicked wintry weather across much of the Lower 48 is due to the combination of strong Arctic high pressure supplying sub-freezing temperatures and an active storm track escorting waves of precipitation from coast-to-coast," the National Weather Service explained in its alert.

As of 3:30 p.m. EST, FlightAware had reported more than 3,500 canceled flights across the country for Monday and more than 3,800 delays. Nearly 1,600 cancellations are predicted for Tuesday. Dallas-Fort Worth Intercontinental led the global list of airports with the most cancellations and Dallas-based Southwest had the most cancellations of any carrier.

Southwest was one of several airlines to issue weather waivers to prevent passengers and planes from becoming stranded. Though the covered destinations and dates vary, most include most of the major airports in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas.

Flights weren't the only transportation impacted. The ice in Houston contributed to nearly 120 crashes were reported Sunday, including a 10-car pileup on I-45, Samuel Peña, the city's fire chief, tweeted.

"Folks please know the slush you see on our roadways will refreeze soon and driving will be more treacherous than last night," Police Chief Art Acevedo pleaded in a tweet Monday afternoon. "Please avoid travel as temperatures drop and roadways ice."

S: USA Today

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