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 Middle Atlantic region 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.
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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.
More than 100,000 customers in the Dallas area remained without power Saturday, with about 7,000 in Oklahoma and thousands more in other states. At least 400 departing flights from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport had been canceled, the airport said. About 3,330 passengers stayed overnight in the terminals.
sections of Interstate 35 north of Dallas were closed for hours at a time as wrecks occurred, vehicles stalled and tractor-trailers had trouble climbing hills, 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 on 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.
Freezing rain and sleet were expected overnight Saturday in Memphis, Nashville and other areas of Tennessee before the storm was expected to head 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,” she said Saturday. “I’ve worked multiple disasters, but I’ve never worked an ice storm with a forecast like this.”
The weather forced the cancellation of countless events, including Sunday’s Dallas Marathon and the St. Jude Marathon in Memphis.
About 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. Many schools had to remain closed.