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U.S. Weather

Heavy Snow, Ice Bury Southern Plains, Heads East

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A thick band of heavy snow, freezing rain and cold temperatures was spreading across southeastern states early Saturday, delivering a messy weekend of slick roads, power outages and prime sledding for kids out of school.

Nearly a foot of snow had fallen in parts of western North Carolina, and nearly 10 inches had fallen in some areas north of Memphis, Tenn. In Nashville, about a half-foot of snow was on the ground, the National Weather Service reported.

Jake Guthrie, manager of a Nashville Ace Hardware, pasted a "Sold Out of Sleds" sign at the entrance of the store after selling "several hundred" in the last two days.

Staff had to tell a steady stream of callers that they wouldn't have any more sleds until Friday.

"But winter's not over yet," Guthrie said.

Few cars were on the roads Saturday morning around the city, and most people seemed to be hunkered down indoors. Some ventured out on camouflage all-terrain vehicles usually reserved for hunting season.

The storm left roads icy and snowpacked across the South, and thousands were without power as ice accumulated. Although police said they had to clear hundreds of wrecks overnight, there were no deaths or serious injuries reported.

Will O'Halloran, publisher of City Social Magazine in Baton Rouge, La., got caught in the storm in both directions of his monthly trip to pick up the publication from a printer outside Louisville, Ky. At one point he thought his headlights were broken, only to find they were covered in ice.

"People are crazy out there," O'Halloran, 49, said over breakfast at a McDonald's outside Nashville. "Cars spinning, trailers jackknifed. I just tried to keep it at 40 mph and move along."

In mountainous western North Carolina, I-26 near Asheville and I-40 near Black Mountain were shut down Friday night after snow and icy roads caused multiple wrecks. Duke Energy reported about 35,000 outages in the state, mostly in the western mountains.

North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue declared a state of emergency Saturday, and 30 National Guard soldiers were standing by to help emergency crews.

Highway Patrol Trooper Gene Williams told the Citizen-Times of Asheville that 530 wrecks were reported overnight -- including a snowplow that overturned -- though no one was seriously hurt in the crashes. Virginia State Police said they worked more than 100 crashes overnight. As much as six inches of snow had fallen in southeastern parts of the state.

States of emergency were also declared in Arkansas, Tennessee and parts of Virginia.

In Kentucky, the state transportation cabinet said in a news release that about 5 to 6 inches of snow had fallen in most of the state, with nearly a foot piling up closer to the Tennessee line.

Snowfall in the Nashville area reached 4 to 6 inches before tapering off early Saturday, said weather service meteorologist Darrell Massie. But he cautioned that roads remained "snowpacked and pretty dangerous."

Precipitation also was subsiding in Memphis with up to 2 inches of snow and sleet, but the weather service said areas north of Memphis had seen 6 to 10 inches of snow. Most flights at Memphis International Airport were canceled, and Graceland stopped giving tours of the Elvis Presley home at midmorning Friday.

More than 6,000 customers in the area were without power Saturday morning, according to the Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division.

Temperatures were forecast to remain below freezing through the weekend.

The weather also cut short a farewell celebration at the National Zoo in Washington for young panda Tai Shan, who will be flown to China on Thursday to become part of a breeding program.

Meanwhile, states in the storm's wake were uncovering from inches of snow and caked ice that fouled electricity to hundreds of thousands of customers.

Gov. Brad Henry requested a federal disaster declaration for all of Oklahoma, where more than 164,000 homes and businesses were without power Friday night after a massive storm left up to a half-inch of ice on trees and power lines.

A spokeswoman for Public Service Co. of Oklahoma, Andrea Chancellor, said it could be five days before electricity is restored to all customers.

The storm has been blamed for the death of a 70-year-old Oklahoma woman in a propane explosion. The woman and her husband had apparently been using propane heaters to warm their house in Ada, Assistant Fire Chief Robby Johnson said. The woman, who was not identified, died and her husband was injured when a propane tank exploded Friday morning.