Northwest faces freezing rain and heavy snow while Arctic blast loosens its grip on eastern US

CNNAs a brutal Arctic blast wraps up in the eastern US, a new winter storm system is bringing freezing rain and precarious road conditions to the Pacific Northwest. Here’s the latest.

Freezing rain knocks out power: Freezing rain pelting the Pacific Northwest on Wednesday is expected to knock out power amid frigid temperatures, as accumulating ice can significantly weigh down power lines and trees, the National Weather Service warns. Overnight, more than 60,000 people in Oregon were already without power.

Icy roads pose a threat to Northwest travelers: As rain turns to ice on roadways in the Pacific Northwest, the weather service warns travelers to be wary of slick and hazardous driving conditions. A quarter-inch of ice could coat surfaces in and around Portland, Oregon, and as much as an inch could accumulate near the Columbia River Gorge along the Oregon-Washington border, the agency said.

Heavy snowfall wraps up for most of Northeast: Snowfall that has been bombarding much of the eastern US has largely moved offshore but is still ongoing in northern Maine, where winter weather alerts are in effect early Wednesday. Maine State Police warned travelers to be cautious after two tractor-trailer accidents and a car rollover were reported Tuesday on snow-covered highways.

Buffalo, New York, drivers face snowy commute: Lake effect snow warnings are in effect in Buffalo until Thursday night. The surrounding area could see 1 to 3 feet of localized snowfall and wind gusts up to 40 mph. “Travel could be very difficult to impossible. The hazardous conditions could impact the morning or evening commutes,” the weather service warned.

At least a dozen storm-related deaths: At least 12 deaths been reported across Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Kansas and Oregon since January 12 amid almost unrelenting winter storms across the US. In Tennessee, where seven fatalities have been reported, a box truck driver was killed when he lost control of the vehicle on a snowy Knoxville highway and careened into a tractor-trailer, police said.

Double whammy of ice and snow in Northwest

Back-to-back storms are delivering a “1-2 punch” to the Northwest with freezing rain and ice in Oregon and Washington and heavy snow through the region’s interior through the end of the week, the weather service said.

More than 3 million people in the region were under ice storm warnings early Wednesday as a new storm moved onshore, including hard-hit Portland, according to the weather service. (See alert: #NEWS UPDATE: Rain, snow and ice ongoing across Pacific Northwest)

Up to an inch of ice could form in the South Washington Cascades and the surrounding foothills, where the ice storm warning is in effect until 1 a.m. Wednesday. Snowfall up to 7 inches and winds gusting up to 40 mph are also expected.

Winter storm warning also extend over the Cascades and northern Rockies. Up to 3 feet of snow could fall over the Cascades through Thursday afternoon and up to 2 feet are expected in higher elevation areas in the northern parts of Washington, Idaho and Montana by late Thursday morning.

Up to 2 inches of snow could fall per hour in parts of the Cascades and northern Rockies Wednesday and into Thursday, the weather service said.

Lower elevation areas of the Great Basin and Rockies could see between 2 to 4 inches of snow, while parts of Montana may see up to 8 inches.

Arctic blast briefly backs off

After a brutal Arctic blast brought record-low temperatures and life-threatening wind chills across large portions of the US, temperatures will briefly moderate in most areas on Wednesday before another surge of cold air sets in, according to the weather service.

High temperatures will finally climb above zero degrees in much of the central US after the region endured life-threatening sub-zero wind chills – a measurement of how cold the air feels on your skin – earlier this week.

As the worst of the cold eases off, the majority of wind chill warnings across the central and eastern US will expire throughout the day Wednesday. Still, wind chills as low as -25 degrees could be felt early in the day in cities in Central Florida and the Midwest, including Pittsburg, Detroit and Chicago. (See this alert: #NEWS: Over 100 million people under wind chill alerts across the US)

A true warm-up is in store for southern Texas and eastward along the Gulf Coast, where highs will return to the 60s and 70s on Thursday. (Rob slack me this line)

However, lake effect snow warnings are in effect for Buffalo, New York, and Watertown, Massachusetts, until Thursday night, where up to 3 feet could fall. Snowfall will reach metro Buffalo by early Wednesday morning and will continue through the evening before oscillating just south of Buffalo and directly impacting the city through Thursday.

Lake Effect snow happens when cold air moves across the open, unfrozen waters of the Great Lakes, creating narrow bands that produce 2 to 3 inches of snow per hour or more.

Beginning Thursday, another Arctic blast is set to spread frigid, below-average temperatures across the northern Plains and Midwest and into the Deep South by the week’s end. (Add is per Rob)