A storm carrying the threat of heavy snow for the Northeast (search) coated a wide swath of the East Coast in ice Tuesday, stopping trains, closing schools and courts, and knocking out electricity to a quarter-million people.

At least 50 deaths have been blamed on snow, ice and cold from Kansas to the Carolinas since the weekend.

While one low-pressure system pushed a wave of icy weather that stretched from Georgia into Maryland, another propelled snow across the Midwest and Great Lakes (search). Up to 27 inches of snow was possible in northern Michigan by Wednesday morning.

The two systems were converging over the Northeast, threatening Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Nearly a foot of snow was expected in parts of New Jersey, with a chance of 15 inches in New York's Catskills.

"I don't like it at all," said Gisselle Garcia of Newark, N.J., as she waited for a train because roads were too slippery for her to drive. "It's too cold. My toes get frozen. It's not safe for kids to be outside. And old people slip and fall on the ice. Enough!"

Freezing rain and drizzle fell from northern Georgia into Maryland during the morning, creating a layer of ice up to an inch thick in South Carolina, where Gov. Mark Sanford (search) declared a state of emergency.

Because of ice on switches and electrical connections, Amtrak stopped four East Coast trains, including the New York-to-Miami Silver Meteor and the Auto Trains.

Towing services were kept busy pulling vehicles out of ditches.

"People don't slow down for nothing," Peter Ashenden of Lizard Lick Towing & Recovery said as he worked to right a sport utility vehicle that overturned near Wendell, N.C.

More than 250,000 customers lost power Tuesday in South Carolina and 58,000 in Georgia, utilities reported. In North Carolina, electricity was restored to about 10,000 customers by Tuesday night, leaving about 20,000 still without power.

The South Carolina National Guard was placed on standby as work crews worked to restore power and spread sand on icy roads. People across the state went to hotels or makeshift shelters in search of warmth. North Carolina Guardsmen patrolled Interstate 95 in Humvees, helping to tow vehicles that had slid off the highway.

In Virginia's Henrico County, outside Richmond, rescue workers were deluged with calls from people who slipped and fell on sidewalks and front steps.

Tuesday's session of Delaware's legislature was canceled. Most schools, courts and businesses in Virginia were closed for a second straight day. Most schools in Maryland remained closed and local and state governments opened late or allowed many employees to stay home. Many New Jersey school districts also canceled classes Tuesday or planned early dismissals in anticipation of rain, freezing rain, sleet and snow.

New York City was closing schools Wednesday because of snow and below-freezing temperatures. The snow caused dozens of flight delays and cancellations Tuesday at the city's airports.

In the Midwest, snow and sleet fell across Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin. Dozens of Illinois school districts called off classes because of slippery roads. Rush hour traffic was snarled in Chicago and hundreds of flights were canceled.

The weather was blamed for seven deaths in North Carolina; six in South Carolina; five each in Iowa and Missouri; four in Ohio; three each in Nebraska, Virginia, Minnesota and Maryland; two each in Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma; and one each in Kansas, New Jersey and West Virginia. Most of the deaths were in traffic accidents.