Motorists travel on Interstate 24 in Paducah, Ky. / Stephen Lance Dennee, AP
A swath of heavy snow and ice that hit the eastern USA on Sunday - from West Virginia to Philadelphia - dumping snow on NFL fields and causing highway pileups threatened to disrupt commuters on Monday morning.
The snow came from an arctic blast of frigid air that froze highways in the middle of the country over the weekend and knocked power out to thousands of homes.
The forecast for Monday remained up in the air for the Northeast, depending on how quickly the system moves and temperatures rise, according to the National Weather Service. But travel problems could linger into Monday afternoon, with freezing rain and icy conditions sticking around as wintry weather stretched from Missouri to Maine.
Federal agencies in the Washington, D.C., area will delay opening times by two hours Monday due to the weather, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management said on its website.
Earlier, the harsh weather was blamed for three deaths around the Dallas area. More than 35,000 homes and businesses in North Texas remained without power as of Sunday afternoon.
Forecasts had predicted 1 to 4 inches of snow across the Northeast, but the system dumped 6 to 12 inches in a swath that stretched from northern West Virginia to Philadelphia and east into New Jersey, said Brian Hurley, meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Weather Prediction Center.
"We knew there was going to be some bands of precipitation," Hurley said. "We didn't quite expect it to have the intensity in snowfall that it did."
Warmer air was expected to move in Monday, raising temperatures into the 40s, he said. The rest of the week looks sunny and cold, Hurley said.
Ice and perhaps an inch of snow will stick along the Interstate 95 corridor from New York City through Boston to Portland, Maine.
Due to severe weather conditions, communication, power and transportation lines may be disrupted across the Midwest and through the Southeastern regions of the United States.
The auction site eBay warned that severe weather across the country could delay shipments, especially in Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Ohio and Texas. The site urged customers to be patient with shippers.
The lousy weather is something for which the major retailers and shippers do their best to accommodate, but they can only do so much.
"Sure, it drives them crazy," says Dick Seesel, owner of Retailing in Focus, a retail consulting firm. "But you're talking about companies that today operate coast-to-coast." Macy's, for example, which is now a national instead of regional retailer, he says, is much less vulnerable to bad weather in one part of the country when it has operations across the country.
Also, some retailers, including Macy's and Nordstrom, have a unique ability to ship from some of their brick-and-mortar retail locations if their e-commerce hubs have weather issues, Seesel says.
Before purchasing something online during lousy weather, Seesel suggests, it's a good idea to check first with a live customer service agent via phone or online chat to see if the weather might delay shipment.
Blowing snow hurt visibility and traction at football games in Pittsburgh, Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia. The snow obscured yard markers, and ground crews tried to keep pace with shovels and even plows. The Detroit Lions fumbled four times playing the Philadelphia Eagles.
Flight delays due to rain and low ceilings may linger through much of Monday along I-95 in the Northeast because of low clouds.
The storm canceled more than 2,500 flights Sunday and delayed thousands more, according to estimates from the website Flightaware.com. More than 1,000 of Monday's flights were already canceled, the greatest share from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, which was still reeling from the effects of the ice storm that brought North Texas to a standstill.
On Sunday, flight delays littered the country by late afternoon. The worst were 1 hour and 43 minutes in Philadelphia, more than 1 hour in Newark, and nearly 1 hour at New York's JFK and in Houston, with more than half-hour delays at Washington's Dulles and New York's LaGuardia airports, according to tracking site FlightAware.com.
By Monday, precipitation will focus over much of New York state and inland New England, with freezing rain across central Pennsylvania. Heavier snow of 3 to 6 inches will fall in the St. Lawrence Valley.
But road conditions are expected to improve Monday from Washington to New York City, as rain replaces snow, according to AccuWeather. Travel may be slushy and slippery around Boston.
"We're going to see a whole mix of precipitation, anywhere from snow at the onset across Pennsylvania, New Jersey and down to D.C., to sleet and freezing rain in the Shenandoah Valley," says AccuWeather meteorologist Danielle Knittle.
National Weather Service meteorologists in southwest Virginia warned of a "significant winter storm," and state Emergency Management spokeswoman Laura Southard said the storm has the potential to be a "historic ice event."
"This forecast is very concerning to us," Southard said. "I've worked multiple disasters, but I've never worked an ice storm with a forecast like this. It's just really important for everybody to take extra precautions."
Knittle said more than a half-inch of ice buildup expected on I-81, western Virginia and central Maryland's main highway could imperil travel.
Bob Nations Jr., director of the emergency operations command center for the Memphis area, said early Sunday that ice coating roads, bridges and overpasses caused several multi-vehicle crashes. He issued a statement urging drivers to use extreme caution, particularly on bridges and overpasses.
Police in Memphis, meanwhile, urged motorists to stay home altogether if they could avoid travel Sunday.
"It looks like we're going to be stuck with this for one, two, maybe three days," said Memphis attorney Sam Chafetz, who tried to get off the roads before the worst of the storm hit. "I'm not afraid of the ice and snow, I'm afraid of the other drivers who don't know how to drive in it."
The National Weather Service forecast for Monday says showers and thunderstorms will develop over the central Gulf Coast and move into the Southwest and Mid-Atlantic by evening.
Meanwhile, lake-effect snow will develop over the Upper Great Lakes on Monday evening and some additional snow is expected over the Southwest and Southern Rockies. That system could bring snow to the High Plains on Monday and the Upper Mississippi Valley by Monday night, according to the weather service.
Contributing: John Bacon, Ben Mutzabaugh, Donna Leinwand Leger, Doyle Rice, Bruce Horovitz, USA TODAY; Associated Press; The Spectrum & Daily News in Utah.
Copyright 2013 USATODAY.com
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