A major ice storm killed at least three people, disrupted thousands of flights and knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of people, leaving much of the south-central U.S. in a deep freeze Friday.
The blast of cold air and freezing rain forced the shutdown of schools, businesses and government agencies in several states.
Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe declared a statewide emergency, making it easier for crews to repair damage to trees and power lines. A state of emergency was also declared in the western and middle parts of Tennessee.
Freezing rain and sleet are likely again Saturday night in Memphis, Nashville and other areas of Tennessee.
Emergency officials in Shelby County, Tenn., warned people to continue to stay off ice-slicked roads and highways into Saturday. Meteorologist John Moore said a layer of ice as thick as three-tenths of an inch could accumulate on roads, bridges and highways — including the Interstate 40 corridor — making driving perilous.
In Nashville, organizers canceled the Christmas parade. The annual St. Jude Memphis Marathon, scheduled for Saturday, was canceled as well.
The National Weather Service says a wind chill advisory is in effect Saturday for parts of northeast Arkansas and the Missouri boot heel, where at least 7 inches of snow has fallen. Forecasters say wind chill readings between zero and minus-5 degrees may occur.
Also, Western and central Kentucky were under winter storm warnings slated to last through early Saturday. With warmer temperatures expected in eastern Kentucky, forecasters issued a flood watch into Saturday morning.
Some areas looked even further ahead, with Virginia officials warning residents of a major ice storm likely to take shape Sunday, resulting in power outages and hazards on the roads.
“Both Washington and New York City should see their first inch or two of snow of the season Sunday,” AccuWeather meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said.
The Dallas-Fort Worth area was especially hard hit by the ice storm Friday, with dozens of traffic accidents reported. A marathon scheduled for Sunday was canceled due to the icy conditions. A quarter of a million customers in North Texas were left without power, and many businesses told employees to stay home to avoid the hazardous roads.
Police in Arlington, about 20 miles west of Dallas, reported one driver was killed when his car slammed into a truck. Authorities in Oklahoma reported two weather-related traffic deaths.
The storm dumped a foot of snow and more in some areas of Illinois, with police scrambling to respond to dozens of accidents and forced scores of schools to remain closed.
The storm is also delaying shipments of everything from Christmas presents to cooking grease: Wal-Mart had its truckers take extra goods to stores ahead of the storm, while Amazon and FedEx are notifying those waiting on packages that dangerous driving conditions are forcing delays.
Meanwhile, snow and difficult travel conditions were reported in parts of the West and the Rockies because of another winter storm.
Bone-chilling cold continued across the north-central U.S., with temperatures at or below zero across most of Montana, the Dakotas, Minnesota and Iowa. The temperature Friday morning in Great Falls, Mont., of 26 degrees below zero was colder than the 20 below zero reading at the South Pole in Antarctica, according to the National Weather Service.
In California, four people died of hypothermia in the San Francisco Bay Area while the region was gripped by freezing temperatures.
The cold also threatened farmers in the West: Growers across California have toiled this week to protect the state’s prized $ 2 billion a year citrus industry and other key crops such as lettuce and avocados from the cold snap that engulfed the state, dropping temperatures to levels that can damage fruit and delay the harvest of greens.
While most of the country dealt with cold, wintry weather, parts of the Southeast and all of Florida continued to enjoy balmy conditions, with temperatures in the 70s and 80s under mostly clear skies. In North Carolina, record high temperatures were set in both Fayetteville (80 degrees) and Greensboro (76), the weather service reported.
Contributing: Doug Stanglin and Ben Mutzabaugh, USA TODAY; Associated Press
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