Winter storm warnings or watches were posted in 17 states Friday from the southern Rockies to the southeast. Stretches of several interstate highways are closed due to treacherous driving conditions.
A strong storm has already dumped snow and sleet on Oklahoma and Texas, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without power and causing dozens of traffic accidents.
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Heavy ice brought down electrical lines and trees limbs, knocking out lights and heat to more than 132,000 homes and businesses in Oklahoma, mostly in the southwest, according to local utilities.
"In some places, as far you can see there are hundreds of utility poles on the ground," said Andrea Chancellor, spokeswoman for Public Service Company of Oklahoma. She said it could be five days before electricity is restored to all customers.
National Weather Service meteorologist Patrick Burke said another wave of precipitation would move up through Texas and into Oklahoma overnight, bringing colder air and additional chances for snow in areas already hit.
Parts of Texas have been walloped with as much as 12 inches of snow, making for dangerous driving conditions.
More than 100 flights out of Oklahoma City's Will Rogers Airport were cancelled Thursday due to potential ice buildup on planes. Flights were also canceled in Tulsa and in Texas out of Lubbock, Amarillo and Wichita Falls, according to airline officials.
The heavy ice and snow forced Gov. Brad Henry to declare a state of emergency for The Sooner State.
The First United Methodist Church in Hobart, about 120 miles southwest of Oklahoma City, was one of the dozens of emergency shelters that were opened for those who needed a warm place to stay. Pastor Kyle Clark said downed trees and utility poles littered the slick roadways and most of the town of about 4,000 residents had no electricity.
"We've got gas heat and we are illuminating the place with candles," Clark said late Thursday.
Forecasters say the system is expected to move into Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and parts of northern Georgia on Saturday.