A winter storm moved east on Friday after hammering the Great Plains, and more than a dozen states were forecast to be hit in the coming days.
Accidents were reported across the region, with one death: An Oklahoma teenager was killed when his pickup truck skidded across a slushy road.
By evening, more than 14 inches of snow had fallen on the ground in Wichita, Kan., the second-largest on record and the most the city had seen in 50 years.
The Weather Channel said snow totals would be formidable: Up to a foot of snow for Omaha, Neb., 3 to 6 inches of snow and sleet for St. Louis, 8 to 12 inches of snow for Kansas City, Mo., and 3 to 6 inches of snow for Chicago.
Weather.com predicted the storm "will spread eastward into the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley Thursday night into early Friday." Cities including Minneapolis/St. Paul, Milwaukee and Detroit were expected to experience snow.
Sleet and freezing rain were forecast for Friday morning in southern and central Ohio, West Virginia, western Virginia, parts of central and western Pennsylvania and potentially northern North Carolina.
Kansas and Missouri declared states of emergency as plows struggled to keep up with a system dumping as much as 3 inches of snow per hour, and a swath of the country from Ohio to Arkansas prepared for a coating of dangerous ice.
“I do want to urge everybody in the state: If you don’t have to travel, don’t,” Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said. “Get out a board game, play with the kids, drink a cup of coffee.”
Flights canceled, roads closed
United, Southwest Airlines, AirTran Airways, American Airlines and American Eagle said they had canceled hundreds of flights for Thursday and Friday, and Kansas City International Airport was closed altogether. Chicago's O'Hare International Airport has already canceled more 200 flights scheduled for Friday.
Raymore, Mo., reported more than 10 inches of snow. Topeka, Kan., had 9.2 inches, the most in a day since January 1993. Alva, Okla., had more than a foot on the ground.
Advisories for snow, ice, wind or rain were posted as far south as the Texas Panhandle, as far north as Minnesota and Wisconsin and as far east as the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.
Authorities closed a 90-mile stretch of Interstate 70, which forms a belt across Kansas and Missouri.
The speed of the snowfall is “going to be overwhelming even the best snow-clearing capabilities that they have,” meteorologist Tom Niziol said on The Weather Channel. “If you don’t have anywhere to go, don’t. Please don’t.”
Along the Kansas-Nebraska state line, up to a foot and a half of snow was expected.
The University of Kansas closed for the day, as did schools in Wichita and Oklahoma City.
The storm is vast: Earlier this week, it closed roads and stranded cars in California and dusted cactus tops in the Southwest. At a delayed tournament in Arizona, pro golfers threw snowballs at each other and retreated to the clubhouse for hot chocolate.
The same weather system could dump snow on New England for the third weekend in a row, and a stretch of Georgia and the Florida Panhandle could be doused by 7 inches of rain.
At 3 a.m. ET on Friday, weather.com predicted that it appeared "that the best chance for significant snow will be from parts of eastern upstate New York to portions of central and southern New England (away from the southern coast). This could include Boston, Concord, Portland, Worcester, and Albany."
The storm was blamed for at least one death. An 18-year-old was killed Wednesday when his pickup skidded out of control in the slush on an Oklahoma state highway, crossed into oncoming traffic and was hit by a truck.
In Arkansas, a school bus taking kids home in the afternoon slid off a steep, snowy country road and crashed, leaving the driver and three students with minor injuries, Pope County Sheriff Aaron Duval told The Associated Press.