A pair of storms spread snow, sleet and freezing rain across the eastern half of the nation, glazing highways with treacherous ice as far south as Georgia and closing schools and government offices Monday.
The weather was blamed for at least 35 deaths Sunday and Monday, most in traffic accidents.
The heaviest snowfall was 23 inches at Duluth, Minn., as moist air swept inland from Lake Superior. Drifting snow closed about 70 miles of Interstate 29 overnight in North Dakota, between Fargo and Grand Forks.
Because of the I-29 shutdown, more than 250 truckers had to spend the night at the Stamart truck stop on the outskirts of Fargo, said Michelle Martens, the desk manager.
“They were parked everywhere — everywhere they could find a spot,” Martens said. They were allowed to get back on the road Monday. “To see them leaving, it was just truck to truck to truck,” she said.
Schools were closed Monday from Indiana into Georgia and the Carolinas, where ice made highways treacherous, as well as in parts of Nebraska, North Dakota and Minnesota, where the problem was snow. Businesses and government offices were closed in parts of the Carolinas.
Delta Air Lines delayed or canceled about 300 flights Monday out of Atlanta because of the weather in the Midwest and the East.
‘It's drivable if you take it easy’
Roads in North Carolina were still slippery Monday as people headed to work. Randy Sawyer of Winston-Salem drove through 3 to 5 inches of snow and sleet.
“I couldn’t stand another day in the house. It’s drivable if you take it easy,” Sawyer said.
On Monday, one storm scattered snow along an arc from New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle across the Plains to Minnesota and Wisconsin, then eastward across the Great Lakes into New Jersey.
The Denver area got up to 8 inches of snow overnight. “The plows were out all night and will be out through the rush hour,” said Steve Fitzgerald, a spokesman for the Colorado Transportation Department.
Up to a half-foot of snow accumulated in parts of Indiana, along with sleet and freezing rain. Roads were so slippery that Spencer County decided not to even try sending its six trucks out to clear the pavement, while two state Highway Department trucks slid off roads near Tell City, officials said.
Snow turned to freezing rain Monday morning in parts of Ohio, creating a crunchy layer on top of 4 to 7 inches of snow and making highways and sidewalks more slippery.
The first storm spread layers of snow and ice from Kansas to the Carolinas on Sunday.
The Washington area got 7 inches of snow, its heaviest of the season. Many schools were closed in the city and neighboring Maryland and Virginia, but the federal government remained open, with an unscheduled leave policy for employees.
State of emergency in N.C.
North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley declared a state of emergency, allowing him to activate the National Guard. Fifty solders were put on standby in case they were needed to help out Monday.
Roads through Maryland were “plenty rough” Monday, state Transportation Secretary Robert Flanagan said.
The storm fell short of the predicted 10 inches of snow in Maryland, with a maximum of about 8 inches by Monday morning in the central part of the state.
The weather system crossing the upper Midwest and the Great Lakes was expected to deliver more snow Tuesday in parts of the Northeast, including the New York City area.
The weather was blamed for six deaths in South Carolina; five each in Iowa, North Carolina and Missouri; three each in Nebraska, Minnesota and Ohio; two in Indiana; and one each in Kansas, Maryland and West Virginia.
The fatalities included a teenager killed Sunday in Missouri when his sled ran into the path of a pickup truck, and a man who died Monday near Columbus, Ohio, when his tractor overturned while he plowed his driveway.
In Ohio, 14 people had to be rescued from Lake Erie by helicopter and airboat Sunday after high wind cracked the ice they were fishing on, separating them from Catawba Island, authorities said.
Randy Riedmaier, assistant fire chief on Catawba Island, said the people were stranded on floating ice chunks 1 to 3 miles off shore.