Millions of Americans are hunkering down for icy conditions expected to last through the weekend from Texas to Ohio to Tennessee.
Face-stinging sleet, thick snow and blustery winds led to slick road conditions, school closures and event cancellations as the wintry blast dropped temperatures to freezing and below overnight Saturday (local time).
A treacherous section of icy Interstate 35 about 80 kilometers north of Dallas has been closed intermittently for as long as five hours as tractor-trailers were unable to climb a hill and then clogged the busy highway, Texas Department of Transportation spokeswoman Michelle Releford said Saturday. The backup can extend for miles.
Three traffic-related deaths were reported, one in Arlington, texas, and two in Oklahoma.
And about 117,000 customers in the Dallas area were without power Saturday morning and more than 350 departing flights from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport had been cancelled in the morning, the airport said. About 3330 passengers had stayed overnight in the terminals.
In California, four people died of hypothermia in the San Francisco Bay Area while the region was gripped by freezing temperatures.
Freezing rain and sleet are likely again Saturday night in Memphis, Nashville and other areas of Tennessee before the storm starts surging northeast..
"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," said Memphis attorney Sam Chafetz, who was going home early to enjoy some bourbon-soaked sweet potatoes left over from the Thanksgiving holiday.
Virginia officials warned residents of a major ice storm likely to take shape Sunday, resulting in power outages and hazards on the roads.
State Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Laura Southard said the storm had the potential to be a "historic ice event."
The weather forced the cancellation of Sunday's Dallas Marathon, which was expected to draw 25,000 runners, most of whom had trained for months.
Meanwhile, around 18 centimeters of snow fell in northeast Arkansas and the Missouri boot heel, according to the National Weather Service in Memphis. Ice accumulated on trees and power lines in Memphis and the rest of West Tennessee after layers of sleet fell throughout the region Friday. The weather service says 20 to 23 centimeters fell in parts of southern Indiana.
The storm dumped 30 centimeters 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.
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.
Shipping giant FedEx, which has its worldwide hub in Memphis, was monitoring the situation with its team of meteorologists, company spokesman Scott Fielder said. Delivery delays may occur in areas where the storm caused unsafe driving and flying conditions, he warned.
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.
In Nashville, organizers canceled the Christmas parade. The annual St. Jude Memphis Marathon, scheduled for Saturday, was canceled as well.
Police in Arlington, about 32 kilometers west of Dallas, reported one driver was killed when his car slammed into a truck. Authorities in Oklahoma reported two weather-related traffic deaths.