As many areas in the Southwest continue to be inundated with weather conditions including freezing rain and wind, millions of people are cooped up as the icy conditions are believed to last through Sunday.
The weather has brought about dangerous roads, school closings, loss of electricity, and cancellations of events as freezing temperatures plagued Texas, Ohio, Tennessee and other states on Friday.
Four people in California perished of hypothermia as the region surrounding San Francisco dealt with temperatures below freezing.
In Dallas, Texas, a regularly scheduled marathon which usually draws around 25,000 competitors was forced to cancel. Many of those competitors had trained for this event for an extended period of time. Over 250,000 people in North Texas were forced to be without electricity. Many employers in the area closed their businesses and told their employees to stay home and avoid driving on the ice covered roads.
The National Weather Service reported that northeast Arkansas and part of Missouri received about seven inches of snow. Many areas of west Tennessee were affected as well. Memphis received several inches of sleet and ice accumulated on power lines and trees throughout the area.
A foot of snow mixed with sleet and ice covered some areas of Illinois which left police rushing to respond to more than a few accidents and schools had no choice but to remain closed.
Central and Western Kentucky were issued winter storm warnings which were expected to last through early Saturday at the latest. Much warmer temperatures were expected in the eastern part of the state and, as a result, police issued a watch for flood conditions. Police in Northern Kentucky closed the Roebling Bridge over the Ohio River on Friday afternoon because of icy conditions.
As far as Saturday is concerned, weather officials have issued a wind chill warning in effect for portions of parts of Missouri and northeast Arkansas. The wind chill readings are expected to be as low as five degrees below zero. Sleet and freezing rain are also expected to occur again in parts of Tennessee as well.
In Virginia, residents have been alerted to an ice storm of major proportions to hit the state on Sunday. It is expected to result in the loss of electricity and road hazards.
Officials in Shelby County, Tennessee, warned residents to refrain from getting on the ice covered highways on Saturday. One weather report said that a thick layer of ice could form on bridges, roads, and highways and in particular, Interstate 40. This would make safe driving almost impossible.
FedEx, the shipping company which has its worldwide headquarters in Memphis, was said to be keeping a close eye on the situation. The weather may cause delivery delays due to dangerous flying and driving conditions, according to a spokesman for the company.
Road crews in Shelby County were out spreading a salt and cinder mixture to treat the icy roads. Business owners were also scattering salt on the walkways at the entrances to their stores. Law enforcement agencies reported a substantial increase in automobile accidents, and scattered electricity outages that affected over 3,000 area residents. Those same residents were warned to expect a few days without electricity. The result of that announcement was a rush to buy groceries and purchase both electric generators and gasoline for automobiles. The mayor of Shelby County implored people to check on those who lived alone or were elderly or disabled.
The Nashville Christmas parade was cancelled as was the annual St. Jude Marathon in Memphis. Both events were scheduled for this weekend.
Residents in South Texas covered outdoor plants in plastic bags to protect from the freezing temperatures. The storm actually stretched as far as the Ohio Valley and the Midwest up to New England and on into the Canadian Maritimes.
Arlington, Texas reported one fatality as the result of a driver skidding into a truck. Oklahoma also reported fatalities related to the weather.
Many areas of Wisconsin and Minnesota were also affected by freezing weather conditions. Both states had already received close to two feet of snow and wind chill factors were putting areas of North Dakota to feeling like they were in temperatures of close to 40 below.
By Rick Hope