WASHINGTON - A powerful storm system that spread hazardous snow, sleet and freezing rain widely across the nation's midsection rumbled toward the densely populated Eastern seaboard on Sunday, promising more of the same.
Forecasters said the potent system already blamed for numerous power outages and thousands of weekend flight cancellations elsewhere, has Virginia and other Mid-Atlantic states in its icy sights before the Northeast is up next.
Icy conditions were expected to last through the rest of the weekend from Texas to Ohio to Tennessee. And officials warned a major ice storm was possible in Virginia's Appalachian region along the busy Interstate 81 corridor .
In Virginia, state Emergency Management spokeswoman Laura Southard said the storm had 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."
Forecasters said the storm caused freezing rain and icy conditions in parts of Tennessee as it surged across that state late Saturday and early Sunday. It also has been blamed for plunging temperatures as a cold front sweeps down from the North on the jet stream.
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 early Sunday.
Ice had built up on the windshields and roofs of parked cars throughout Memphis during the day Saturday. Law enforcement reported an increase in traffic crashes, and scattered power outages affected more than 3,000 people, emergency and utility officials said.