Deep freeze hits US

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iol nws dec 8 us snow

REUTERS

A child lies on the floor at JFK airport in New York. Weather forecasters say the powerful weather system has Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic in its icy sights next.

Memphis - 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 (-29 Celsius) during the day on Saturday while much of the Midwest was in the teens and single digits. Wind chill readings could drop as low as 50 below zero (-45 Celsius) 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.

About 75 000 customers in the Dallas area were without power on 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 cancelled, about half of the usual schedule, the airport said. About 3 330 passengers had stayed overnight in the terminals.

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

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.

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. - Sapa-AP

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


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