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Ice Storm Coats South from Oklahoma to Carolinas, Heads to Northeast

Snow and ice sliced across the South from Oklahoma to the Carolinas, cutting power for almost 250,000 customers and threatening to paralyze major cities.

A band of snow and ice sliced across the South on Monday from Oklahoma to the Carolinas, cutting off power for more than a quarter of a million customers and threatening to paralyze major cities on its way to the Northeast.

For once, Boston wasn't the center of the winter weather. Instead, New England-like snow fell on parts of Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia: 17 inches near Coleman, Kentucky; 15 inches in Logan, West Virginia; 14½ inches near Oceana, West Virginia; and 12 inches in Dickenson County, Virginia.

At 3:45 a.m. ET, The Weather Channel reported that 26 million Americans were under winter storm warnings — with three million in Tennessee and South Carolina under an ice storm warning.

Ice coated power lines in Georgia where 174,000 customers were without power early Tuesday.

At least 55,000 customers were without power in Tennessee, the state Emergency Management Agency said late Monday. It also declared a state of emergency late Monday.

Trees and power lines came down in Arkansas, where Entergy Corp. said about 17,000 customers were without power, and in Mississippi, where the state Emergency Operations Center said 10,000 customers were in the dark.

Power failures were affecting nearly 62,000 early Tuesday in South Carolina and an additional 19,000 in North Carolina.

In Poyen, Arkansas — population 292 — David Teel was getting set for a long night at his grocery store — the only one in town.

"If I can be here and safe, I'll be here," Teel told NBC station KARK of Little Rock. Demand is always high for staples before a major storm, he said — "toilet paper, cigarettes, snuff, the basics you got to have."

Snow plows couldn't keep up in Louisville, Kentucky, where more than 7 inches of snow had fallen by Monday evening, with more on the way.

"You are not going to see bare pavement for a number of days, probably, but we are doing the best that we can to make the roads safe and passable," Harold Adams, a spokesman for the Louisville Metro Public Works Department, told NBC station WAVE.

Almost 2,100 arrivals and departures were canceled at U.S. airports Monday — more than a third of them at Charlotte, North Carolina, and Nashville, Tennessee. More than 1,000 were already canceled for Tuesday.

Rain, sleet and snow began pushing from the north and the west into metro Atlanta, which was paralyzed a year ago by a snowstorm that trapped thousands of drivers for more than two days on frozen interstates. A winter storm warning was in effect for north Georgia, and a winter weather advisory was extended until noon Tuesday for northern parts of the Atlanta area.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, intent on not repeating the nightmare of 2014, declared a state of emergency well in advance of the new storm and delayed the opening of state offices in the capital Tuesday morning.

The state Emergency Management Agency said it would have 250 workers out on area streets, hoping to get roads treated before midnight, when falling temperatures could create the same black ice conditions that shut things down last year.

"We are now 24/7 until we perceive that the threat has diminished, and that may be at least Wednesday, but maybe even later in the week," said Jim Butterworth, the agency's director.

"It's a large storm, it's a wide-reaching storm, it's creating really a variety of wintry weather," said Ari Sarsalari, a forecaster for The Weather Channel. "We've had rain and snow, freezing rain and sleet."

But "the ice is going to be a huge problem," Sarsalari said. Noting that other major cities, like Greenville, South Carolina, and Raleigh, North Carolina, were smack in the middle of the forecast past, Sarsalari predicted "an absolute mess for the Tuesday morning commute."

Richmond, Virginia, where it began snowing late Monday morning, was already there. Multiple crashes along snowy Interstate 95 created major traffic problems Monday afternoon, with one backup extending 3½ miles near the interchange with Interstate 64, the state Transportation Department said. And an expected foot of snow in the evening and early Tuesday could make things even worse Tuesday.

In Hampton, Virginia, an SUV careened out of control, crashed into another vehicle and barreled toward a camera being used by NBC station WAVY of Virginia Beach. It stopped just inches short:

Roads were also already icy in Knoxville, Tennessee, where several inches of snow was expected overnight. Knox County Sheriff Jimmy "J.J." Jones told NBC station WBIR that authorities were responding only to life-and-death emergencies — and they're having trouble getting to those.

"Secondary roads are impassable, and the main roads continue to worsen," Jones said.

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency reported that motorists were backed up for 12 miles on I-40 eastbound.

As the system moved into the Northeast, forecasters said Washington, D.C., could get 8 inches of snow late Monday and Tuesday. New York could get 3 inches and parts of New Jersey 7 inches.

Boston got 13 more inches of snow, raising its season total to 95.7, within a foot of the all-time record. Mayor Marty Walsh encouraged people Monday to stop jumping out their windows and into the enormous snowbanks all over the city. Boston schools are off this week for a scheduled February vacation.

After the winter storm came the coldest air of the year. Buffalo, New York, dipped to 9 degrees below zero — the lowest since January 1996. The temperature in Central Park in New York dropped to 3, which was the coldest since January 2004.

Erin McClam and Shamar Walters of NBC News and Chad Burke of The Weather Channel contributed to this report.