By Adrian Sainz
and Jamie Stengle
MEMPHIS, TENN.: 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 said 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 during the day Saturday while much of the Midwest was in the teens and single digits. Wind chill readings could drop as low as 50 below zero 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 Monday, resulting in power outages and hazards on the roads.
Ice accumulated on trees and power lines in Memphis and the rest of West Tennessee after layers of sleet fell throughout the region Friday.
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 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 canceled, about half of the usual schedule, the airport said. About 3,330 passengers stayed overnight in the terminals.
In Virginia, state Emergency Management spokeswoman Laura Southard said the storm had the potential to be a “historic ice event.”
“I’ve worked multiple disasters, but I’ve never worked an ice storm with a forecast like this,” Southard said Saturday.