Snow, ice and freezing rain will strike states from Texas to New England through Tuesday, promising icy roads, power outages and general unpleasantness for much of the country.
Snow and or freezing rain began falling Sunday in parts of Virginia and West Virginia. The front was poised to move through the mid-Atlantic states and head for New York by Monday morning, the National Weather Service forecast. Freezing rain and sleet will follow from Tennessee into North and South Carolina before heading up the East Coast.
The poor weather in travel hubs including New York, Washington and Philadelphia are likely to cause flight delays that could ripple across the nation and snarl traffic through the Monday morning commute.
By midday Sunday, 1,449 flights had been canceled and 961 delayed in the USA, according to the tracking site FlightStats.com. The worst hit was Dallas-Fort Worth, which had 1,055 canceled and 130 delayed, according to FlightStats. Washington Dulles had 226 canceled and 48 delays.
At 11 a.m. Eastern, flight delays were 50 minutes at Washington Dulles, 48 minutes at Dallas-Fort Worth and 27 minutes at Memphis, according to the tracking site FlightAware.com.
"We're going to see a whole mix of precipitation, anywhere from snow at the onset across Pennsylvania, New Jersey and down to D.C., to sleet and freezing rain in the Shenandoah Valley," says AccuWeather meteorologist Danielle Knittle.
The National Weather Service issued winter advisories Sunday for:
• Missouri boot-heel and northwest Tennessee through noon, with freezing rain and drizzle causing hazardous driving conditions.
• Kansas through 3 p.m., where freezing drizzle and light snow are making roads slick.
• North Carolina through 7 p.m., where freezing rain will make driving risky on bridges and overpasses, and occasional thunderstorms may occur as the temperature hovers around freezing.
Bob Nations Jr., director of the emergency operations command center for the Memphis area, said early Sunday that ice coating roads, bridges and overpasses caused several multi-vehicle crashes. He issued a statement urging drivers to use extreme caution, particularly on bridges and overpasses.
Police in Memphis, meanwhile, urged motorists to stay home altogether if they could avoid travel Sunday.
Ice had built up on the windshields and roofs of parked cars throughout Memphis during the day Saturday. Law enforcement reported an increase in traffic crashes, and scattered power outages affected more than 3,000 people, emergency and utility officials said.
"It looks like we're going to be stuck with this for one, two, maybe three days," said Memphis attorney Sam Chafetz, who tried to get off the roads before the worst of the storm hit. "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."
The newest round of wintry glop and gloom follows a freeze in Texas and the southern states on Friday that killed at least four people, caused massive traffic back-ups in the Lone Star State, disrupted thousands of flights and knocked out power to hundreds of thousands.
The treacherous conditions across much of the country dampened holiday festivities, too. In Carbondale, Ill., city officials rescheduled the annual Lights Fantastic Parade. In Nashville, organizers canceled the Christmas parade. Even St. Cloud, Minn., accustomed to frightful winter weather, called off its Santa Fun Run and Winter Nights and Lights Parade "due to dangerously cold temperatures."
In Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia, officials have warned residents for days that a major ice storm was likely to take shape Sunday could result in power outages and hazards on the roads. The forecast predicts one to two inches of snow, followed by freezing rain into Monday morning.
"Both Washington and New York City should see their first inch or two of snow of the season Sunday," AccuWeather meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said.
National Weather Service meteorologists in southwest Virginia warned of a "significant winter storm," and state Emergency Management spokeswoman Laura Southard said the storm has the potential to be a "historic ice event."
"This forecast is very concerning to us," Southard said. "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."
Knittle said more than a half-inch of ice buildup expected on I-81, western Virginia and central Maryland's main highway, could imperil travel.
The blast of cold air and freezing rain forced the shutdown of schools, businesses and government agencies in several states Friday.
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.
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.