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Snow, ice, deep-freeze hit large swath of U.S.


Published:   |   Updated: December 7, 2013 at 09:28 PM

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A late fall cold snap that has gripped much of the country is being blamed for a handful of deaths and has forced people to deal with frigid temperatures, power outages by the thousands and treacherous roads.

Weather forecasters say the powerful weather system has Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic in its icy sights next.

Temperatures in Montana and South Dakota were more than 20 degrees below zero during the day Saturday while much of the Midwest was in the teens and single digits. Wind chill readings could drop as low as 50 below zero in northwestern Minnesota, weather officials said.

Icy conditions were expected to last through the weekend from Texas to Ohio to Tennessee, and Virginia officials warned residents of a major ice storm likely to take shape Sunday, resulting in power outages and hazards on the roads.

In California, four people died of hypothermia in the San Francisco Bay area and about a half-dozen traffic-related deaths were blamed on the weather in several states.

Icy, treacherous sections of Interstate 35 north of Dallas were closed for hours at a time over the last day as tractor-trailers had trouble climbing hills, wrecks occurred and vehicles stalled, authorities said.

Tina Pacheco, her husband and two friends were traveling through Texas on their way to Mexico when the ice-laden interstate became so treacherous that traffic came to a standstill. They were forced to spend Friday night in their pickup truck. They parked on a service road and kept the truck running for heat.

“We couldn’t go anywhere,” she said, adding, “It’s a good thing we had gas.”

Jody Gonzalez, chief of Denton County Emergency Services, said about 200 people were in shelters in the Sanger area after getting stuck on the highway. People in that area of I-35 were driving through ruts in 4-inch-thick ice, he said.

Texas Department of Transportation spokeswoman Michelle Releford said road graders and more sand and salt trucks were being sent to try to ease the ice problems.

“We’re sending in everything we’ve got,” said Releford.

About 75,000 customers in the Dallas area were without power Saturday, down from a peak of more than 270,000. Oklahoma utilities reported more than 7,500 power outages across the state and western Arkansas.

Some 400 departing flights from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport were canceled, about half of the usual schedule, the airport said. About 3,330 passengers had stayed overnight in the terminals.

Among those stranded in Dallas was Narasimhan Rangarajan of Chennai, India, who was on his way to see his brother in Salt Lake City, Utah.

He laughed that his vacation had been “not so good so far.” He said he hoped his flight Saturday night to Salt Lake City would take off.

Freezing rain and sleet are likely again Saturday night in Memphis, Nashville and other areas of Tennessee before the storm starts surging northeast.

“It looks like we’re going to be stuck with this for one, two, maybe three days,” said Memphis attorney Sam Chafetz, who was going home early to enjoy some bourbon-soaked sweet potatoes left over from Thanksgiving.

“I’m not afraid of the ice and snow, I’m afraid of the other drivers who don’t know how to drive in it,” Chafetz said.

In Virginia, state Emergency Management spokeswoman Laura Southard said the storm had the potential to be a “historic ice event.”

“This forecast is very concerning to us,” Southard said Saturday. “I’ve worked multiple disasters, but I’ve never worked an ice storm with a forecast like this. It’s just really important for everybody to take extra precautions.”

The weather forced the cancellation of countless events, including Sunday’s Dallas Marathon, which was expected to draw 25,000 runners, some of whom had trained for months, and the St. Jude Marathon in Memphis, expected to include 20,000.

Meanwhile, a football game between Central Florida and Southern Methodist in ice-covered Dallas went on in front of a sparse crowd.

Around 7 inches of snow fell in northeast Arkansas and the Missouri boot heel, according to the National Weather Service in Memphis, and 8 to 9 inches fell in parts of southern Indiana. 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.

Ice accumulated on trees and power lines in Memphis and the rest of West Tennessee after layers of sleet fell throughout the region Friday but most roads were passable Saturday.

Looking ahead, the National Weather Service says a wind chill advisory is in effect for parts of northeast Arkansas and the Missouri boot heel. Forecasters say wind chill readings between zero and minus-5 degrees may occur. Usually in the area, snowstorms are followed by fairly quick rebounds into warm weather, but not this time.

Ice had built up on the windshields and roofs of parked cars throughout Memphis into Saturday. Law enforcement reported an increase in traffic crashes, and scattered power outages affected more than 3,000 people, emergency and utility officials said.

Residents were told to prepare for a few days without power, prompting them to rush to stores to stock up on groceries, buy electricity generators and gas up their cars. Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell reminded residents to check on family and friends who are elderly, disabled or live alone.

___

Stengle reported from Dallas. Associated Press writer John Raby in Charleston, W.Va., contributed to this report.

 

Caption 1:

This photo shows American, Texas and Paris Junior College flags frozen to their poles after an ice storm blew into North East Texas on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 in Paris, Texas. (AP Photo/The Paris News, Sam Craft) MANDATORY CREDIT

Caption 2:

Randy Dean carries a chainsaw down from his roof in Paris, Texas, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. Electrical crews are coming into North East Texas from all over to help restore power to thousands of residents that lost it when an ice storm caused trees and branches to snap pulling down lines and blowing up transformers. (AP Photo/The Paris News, Sam Craft) MANDATORY CREDIT

Caption 3:

Ashley Nadeau, 10, helps George Payovich into a polar bear suit for the Toys for Tots 5k run organized by the Yellowstone Rim Runners at Riverfront Park on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Billings, Mont. The 5k was not run, because of the cold temperatures. (AP Photo/Billings Gazette, Casey Page)

Caption 4:

A worker from Wilson Air Center de-ices a Southwest Airlines plane before it lifts off to Orlando, Fla., Friday, Dec. 6, 2013, at the Memphis International Airport in Memphis, Tenn. The National Weather Service said winter storm warnings and watches and an ice storm warning were in effect for northern Mississippi and West Tennessee on Friday. (AP Photo/The Commercial Appeal, Mark Weber)

Caption 5:

This photo shows Palm trees wrapped in insulation for protection from the sub-freezing temperatures in Tyler, Texas, on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Dr. Scott M. Lieberman)

Caption 6:

Jared Shepard, 5, plays in the snow in his front yard after several inches of snow and ice blanketed the area Friday, Dec. 6, 2013, in Van Buren, Ark. (AP Photo/The Southwest Times Record, Rachel Rodemann)

Caption 7:

A car that slid off the road sits on the side of the highway near Waxahachie, Texas on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. Icy conditions are expected to last through the weekend from Texas to Ohio to Tennessee from a cold snap that covered much of the nation. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Caption 8:

A pedestrian passes beneath a snow-covered tree on Oak Street in Eugene, Ore. on Friday, Dec. 6, 2013. (AP Photo/The Register-Guard, Brian Davies)

Caption 9:

The sun rises over the hills south of the Yellowstone River in Billings, Mont. as the temperatures hover around 20 degrees below zero on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Billings Gazette, Casey Page)

Caption 10:

Icicles hang from a highway sign near Waxahachie, Texas on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. Icy conditions are expected to last through the weekend from Texas to Ohio to Tennessee from a cold snap that covered much of the nation. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Caption 11:

A pedestrian walks down a street as a flock of birds fly by after heavy snowfall moved through the region, Friday, Dec. 6, 2013, in Carbondale, Ill. A big chunk of the U.S. is getting a blast of frigid temperatures, sleet, snow and ice. (AP Photo/The Southern, Steve Matzker)

Caption 12:

How cold was it here? A frozen fountain at Chandler’s Cove tells the tale at South Lake Union, Friday, Dec. 6, 2013, in Seattle. A big chunk of the U.S. is getting a blast of frigid temperatures, sleet, snow and ice. (AP Photo/ The Seattle Times, Ken Lambert)

Caption 13:

A pedestrian walks down the street after heavy snowfall moved through the region on Dec. 6, 2013 in Carbondale, Ill. A big chunk of the U.S. is getting a blast of frigid temperatures, sleet, snow and ice. (AP Photo/The Southern Illinoisan, Steve Matzker)

Caption 14:

Snow falls as Gracie McGhee looks out the window as she waits for her ride on Friday, Dec. 6, 2013, in Carbondale, Ill. A big chunk of the U.S. is getting a blast of frigid temperatures, sleet, snow and ice. (AP Photo/The Southern Illinoisan, Steve Matzker)

Caption 15:

A pickup truck moves along the snow-covered roadway of Interstate 44 near 41st Street and Yale Avenue in Tulsa, Okla., Friday, Dec. 6, 2013. Preliminary estimates from the National Weather Service show that much of central and south-central Oklahoma, including Oklahoma City, received 2 to 4 inches of snow overnight. Northern portions of the state, including Enid and Ponca City, saw a dusting of snow. (AP Photo/Tulsa World, Matt Barnard) ONLINE OUT; KOTV OUT; KJRH OUT; KTUL OUT; KOKI OUT; KQCW OUT; KDOR OUT; TULSA OUT; TULSA ONLINE OUT

Caption 16:

A lone vehicle drives on this section of North bound IH-35E as South bound traffic sits at a complete stop, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Sanger, Texas. Tractor trailers sits at a dead stop on IH 35 South bound as some people are seen walking on the highway, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, near Sanger, Texas. Icy, treacherous sections of Interstate 35 north of Dallas were closed for hours at a time over the last day as tractor-trailers had trouble climbing hills, wrecks occurred and vehicles stalled, authorities said. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Caption 17:

Santa rides his motorcycle along the route of the Twilight Christmas Parade Friday, Dec. 6, 2013 in Maysville, Ky during a steady snowfall. Alan Henderson was portraying Santa Claus. (AP Photo/The Ledger Independent, Terry Prather).

Caption 18:

University of Oregon football player Pharaoh Brown, center, dumps a tub load of snow on fellow student Charley Gibson during a snow battle involving hundreds of students on campus Friday, Dec. 6, 2013. (AP Photo/The Register-Guard, Chris Pietsch)

Caption 19:

Capt. Diana Salmela, of the Marine Reserves, warms up by a fire in the picnic shelter at Riverfront Park as the Yellowstone Rim Runners hold their Toys for Tots 5k run on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Billings, Mont. The 5k was not run, because of the cold temperatures. (AP Photo/Billings Gazette, Casey Page)

Caption 20:

Livestock huddle as they feed in an open field covered in ice, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, near Corinth, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Caption 21:

Traffic on IH-35E South bound sits at a complete stop as a tractor trailer North bound sits on the side of the road, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Sanger, Texas. Icy sections of Interstate 35 north of Dallas were closed for hours at a time over the last day as tractor-trailers had trouble climbing hills, wrecks occurred and vehicles stalled, authorities said. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Caption 22:

A lone vehicle is seen navigating icy road conditions on the fly over from IH-35W North to IH-35E South bound, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Denton, Texas. Icy sections of Interstate 35 north of Dallas were closed for hours at a time over the last day as tractor-trailers had trouble climbing hills, wrecks occurred and vehicles stalled, authorities said. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Caption 23:

Signs warn of treacherous conditions on Highway 121 in Fort Worth, Texas, on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. North Texas authorities say treacherous sections of icy Interstate 35 north of Dallas have been closed for hours at a time intermittently over the last day as tractor-trailers have difficulty climbing hills, wrecks occur and vehicles stall. (AP Photo/The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Ross Hailey) MAGS OUT; (FORT WORTH WEEKLY, 360 WEST); INTERNET OUT

Caption 24:

Dallas County School buses sit with ice on their roofs in a frozen over lot in North Dallas, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. Icy, treacherous sections of Interstate 35 north of Dallas were closed for hours at a time over the last day as tractor-trailers had trouble climbing hills, wrecks occurred and vehicles stalled, authorities said. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Caption 25:

Tree cutting companies line up to help clear the street and cut low hanging tree branches and limbs in Paris, Texas, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/The Paris News, Sam Craft) MANDATORY CREDIT

Caption 26:

This photo shows icicles in the Whiteaker neighborhood of Eugene, Ore., Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. Forecasters expect up to 3 inches of snow on the coast, up to 10 inches east of the Cascade Range and wind chills were forecast as low as 25 degrees below zero. (AP Photo/The Register-Guard, Chris Pietsch)

Caption 27:

The Hi-Five interchange where LBJ Freeway and Hwy 75 connect is shown with vehicles trying to navigate the icy road conditions, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Dallas. Icy sections of Interstate 35 north of Dallas were closed for hours at a time over the last day as tractor-trailers had trouble climbing hills, wrecks occurred and vehicles stalled, authorities said. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Caption 28:

Tractor trailer trucks are shown packed into a Travel Center lot as others, top, sit on the service road unable to get in along the IH-35 North bound service road, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Sanger, Texas. Tractor trailers sits at a dead stop on IH 35 South bound as some people are seen walking on the highway, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, near Sanger, Texas. Icy, treacherous sections of Interstate 35 north of Dallas were closed for hours at a time over the last day as tractor-trailers had trouble climbing hills, wrecks occurred and vehicles stalled, authorities said. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Caption 29:

A lone vehicle drives on this section of North bound IH-35E as South bound traffic sits at a complete stop, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in Sanger, Texas. Tractor trailers sits at a dead stop on IH 35 South bound as some people are seen walking on the highway, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, near Sanger, Texas. Icy, treacherous sections of Interstate 35 north of Dallas were closed for hours at a time over the last day as tractor-trailers had trouble climbing hills, wrecks occurred and vehicles stalled, authorities said. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Caption 30:

People are shown standing outside a Greyhound travel bus on IH-35E south bound as it sits at complete stop with tractor trailer trucks surrounding it, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, near Sanger, Texas. Icy, sections of Interstate 35 north of Dallas were closed for hours at a time over the last day as tractor-trailers had trouble climbing hills, wrecks occurred and vehicles stalled, authorities said. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Caption 31:

Kenneth McCarroll, of Willsbros T&D Services, performs a chemical test on a transformer in Paris, Texas, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. Electrical crews are coming into North East Texas from all over to help restore power to thousands of residents that lost it when an ice storm caused trees and branches to snap pulling down lines and blowing up transformers. (AP Photo/The Paris News, Sam Craft) MANDATORY CREDIT

Caption 32:

Work trucks from Texoma Powerline Inc. sit in the parking lot of Love Civic Center in Paris, Texas, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. The parking lot was part of a staging area before heading out to help restore power to Paris and other areas of Lamar County. (AP Photo/The Paris News, Sam Craft) MANDATORY CREDIT

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