Southeastern states were bracing Friday for overnight snow and icy roads from a storm that has toppled Midwestern power lines, closed major highways, buried parts of the southern Plains in heavy ice and snow and left tens of thousands of people in the dark.
As snow and sleet fell Friday in several Southeastern states, forecasters said some parts of the region could see up to a foot of accumulation.
The heaviest snow was expected in Arkansas near the Missouri state line, northern Tennessee near the Kentucky and Virginia borders, and western North Carolina, according to the National Weather Service.
Mark Rose, a forecaster with the weather service's Nashville office, called it "a major winter storm for this part of the country — heck, for any part of it."
In North Carolina, Interstate 26 near Asheville and Interstate 40 near Black Mountain were shut down Friday night after snow and icy roads caused multiple wrecks. Troopers said they expected the highways to remain closed until early today.
The storm left 13 inches of snow in the northern Texas Panhandle, where nearly all of Interstate 40 from the Texas-Oklahoma line to New Mexico was closed for part of the day.
More than 164,000 homes and businesses in Oklahoma were without power Friday evening, officials said. The outages were caused by a massive storm that left up to a half-inch of ice on trees and power lines. Gov. Brad Henry requested a federal disaster declaration for all 77 Oklahoma counties.
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 after the storm disrupted their electric service, 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.
Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen declared a state of emergency and state workers were sent home around lunch ahead of the worsening weather. Many businesses followed suit.
States of emergency were also declared in Arkansas and parts of Virginia and schools closed early in northern Alabama.