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Deadly ice storm pushes up US east coast as temperatures drop to -29C

'Historic ice event' swept from Dallas, Texas towards the Eastern Seaboard

A powerful icy storm system is sweeping across the US, resulting in temperatures dropping to -29C and lower as well as deaths, power cuts and massive travel disruption.

Yesterday the winter storm began pushing up the country's densely-populated Eastern Seaboard, and forecasters say it will continue to drop freezing rain, sleet and snow on cities from West Virginia to Maine.

A severe warning was issued by the Government’s National Weather Service (NWS) at the weekend, and officials say temperatures will remain low until late on Monday (local time) when the system exits to the northeast.

On Saturday, the mercury dropped to -29C in Montana and South Dakota during the day, while officials warned residents in northwest Minnesota to brace for temperatures as low as -45C with the impact of wind chill.

What was described as a “complex winter storm” affected much of the central and eastern parts of the US this weekend, dropping between 3 and 6 inches (7.6 to 15.2cm) of snow on West Virginia before settling over Washington, DC, for the first time this season.

Several inches of snow were also expected for Philadelphia and New York, and would come about 10 days earlier than the average first snowfall, the NWS said. 

More than 2,500 flights were cancelled across the country because of Sunday's weather, while the Delaware Memorial Bridge linking the state with New Jersey was shut “due to ice and multiple accidents”.

Meanwhile, the NWS also issued a “hard freeze warning” for large parts of the Midwest, and freeze warnings for the west coast.

Four people died in the San Francisco Bay area of California as a result of hypothermia, and at least six deaths in traffic-related incidents were blamed on the severe weather across several states.

One person died in North Texas after a pick-up truck lost control on an icy bridge.

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,” Ms Southard said on Saturday. “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.”

Among the road closures on Saturday were Interstate 35, north of Dallas, Texas, where treacherous conditions had seen crashes and vehicles struggling to climb hills.

Around 270,000 homes were without power at the peak of outages in the Dallas area on Saturday, and yesterday 7,000 were still cut off in Tennessee. “For some of our customers it may take a couple of days to get their power back,” said Rob Fisher, director of Emergency Management for Dickson County.

The ice storm forced the cancellation of a number of large annual events over the weekend, including yesterday’s Dallas Marathon, which was expected to draw 25,000 runners, and the St. Jude Marathon in Memphis, expected to see 20,000 people competing.