RALEIGH, N.C. – Snow, sleet and freezing rain wreaked havoc across Mid-Atlantic and Southern states on Thursday, causing hundreds of accidents, four fatal. The nasty pre-winter mix also forced schools to start late, close early or cancel classes altogether.
Three people died in separate weather-related crashes in North Carolina.
In south-central Kentucky, state police said an 80-year-old man died when his sport-utility vehicle hit a patch of ice, ran off the road and overturned.
Thousands of people in North Carolina and in Virginia lost power, and West Virginia's acting governor was forced to cancel a Christmas party scheduled for Thursday night at the Governor's Mansion.
In metro Atlanta and north Georgia, icy conditions Thursday morning prompted road closures a day after slick surfaces caused hundreds of accidents. Temperatures had warmed and the ice had melted by midday.
Ice also covered roads early Thursday in Louisville, Ky., and parts of Tennessee. Those who ventured out had to allow time to clear ice that coated nearly everything, from cars to walkways to the sides of buildings.
"I'm just chipping away," said Tim Olson of Louisville, who was getting the ice off his truck Thursday morning. "It looks slick. I hope it isn't too bad."
In Missouri, the freezing rain began Wednesday night and continued into Thursday morning, with the Missouri State Highway Patrol reporting numerous accidents.
In Ohio, plows were out in counties near the Ohio River. A spokeswoman for Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport said airlines were experiencing weather delays and cancellations. Cincinnati schools were closed because of warnings about slick roads.
"Although it's unusual to have to call off school because of wintry conditions this early in the school year, student safety always comes first," superintendent Mary Ronan said.
Meanwhile, snow was also falling or expected in Philadelphia and parts of New York state.
Delaware authorities late Thursday reported more than 150 traffic accidents, including several school bus crashes. And some MARC commuter trains in Maryland were canceled because of snow-related problems.
In Washington, D.C., where 3 inches of snow was forecast, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority said the runway at Reagan National Airport closed temporarily so crews could clear snow. Passengers also were stuck on the tarmac.
Among those stranded on the tarmac for hours were Margret Daly of St. Petersburg, Fla., who traveled to Washington to bury her husband, a World War II veteran, at Arlington National Cemetery on Friday.
The Auburn women's basketball team, which was heading to Indianapolis as part of an eight-day trip, also was stuck in Washington for the night. Players and coaches thought they were leaving Washington on Thursday afternoon. Their first flight was canceled, and they waited six hours for another flight to Atlanta. Everyone boarded the plane, and then that flight was canceled, says 18-year-old Peyton Davis.
Delta Airlines said early Thursday evening it had canceled its remaining 15 flights out of Reagan National Airport.
Airports authority spokeswoman Courtney Mickalonis said that crews at Reagan and Dulles International Airport were working to clear the snow, but that some planes had to wait. She said there were many delays and cancellations, although flights were taking off and landing all afternoon.
BWI/Thurgood Marshall said on its website that some airlines were reporting delays.
Western New York was getting a respite from heavy lake-effect snow storms but forecasters said central parts of the state would get pounded for another day. Weather-related accidents shut down northbound Interstate 81 in the Syracuse area for more than two hours, state police said.
In Florida, farmers around the state were still assessing how cold weather earlier this week affected crops.
Tropical fish and strawberry farmers in the central part of the state reported some losses Wednesday, but the full extent of the cold damage won't be known for a few weeks. Citrus growers were more optimistic, saying they avoided a citrus freeze.