Washington: A winter storm reaching from Texas to New England closed schools, canceled nearly 3,000 flights and stranded hundreds of drivers overnight in Kentucky, where as much as 21.5 inches (55 cm) of snow fell.
Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear declared a state of emergency on Thursday. Cancellations were announced for hundreds of school districts, government offices and legislatures in the District of Columbia, New Jersey, South Carolina and Tennessee.
"Help is on the way," Kentucky National Guard Lieutenant Colonel Kirk Hilbrecht, interviewed on CNN, told drivers stuck in their cars on I-65 as long as 12 hours.
The stranded drivers were told on Thursday morning that it would take several hours to reopen the roadway and that National Guardsmen would assist them as well as drivers stuck on western Kentucky roads. The governor said the stranded vehicles were blocking first responders.
National Weather Service meteorologist Andrew Orrison said Kentucky was buried under snow, with 21.5 inches reported in the city of Radcliff and more than a foot falling elsewhere in the state.
Parts of Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio recorded as much as 11 inches (28 cm) of snow, while freezing rain made for a treacherous commute in eastern portions of Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama, the weather service said.
Forecasters warned of dangerous travel conditions throughout the region as the storm moved out of Kentucky and bore down on West Virginia and northern Virginia.
"It`s a rather expansive area of snowfall," said Orrison, noting the storm was touching New York City, Long Island and the southern parts of New England.
Ahead of the storm, West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin mobilized the state`s National Guard and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency.
A total of 2,957 U.S. flights for Thursday were canceled, according to FlightAware.com, with airports in Dallas, Washington, Philadelphia and the New York metropolitan area hardest hit.
Boston, which posted its coldest February on record, might not get any snow from the newest storm, the weather service said, contrary to earlier forecasts that projected as much as 3 inches (8 cm) for the city.
Boston needs 2 more inches to break its record annual snowfall total of nearly 108 inches, which was set in the year ended in June 1996.