Winter whipped the Northeast with up to 8 inches of snow today, turning highways into demolition derbies and closing schools in five states, while in the South heavy rain bloated rivers to the brim.
In the Plains and Mississippi Valley, the thermostat was stuck below zero as far south as Arkansas, where the fifth person to die of hypothermia in a week, an elderly woman, was found huddled by her wood-burning stove. The punishing wave of stormy weather that began Jan. 30 has claimed 76 lives nationwide.
Snow fell throughout the morning from Maryland to Massachusetts, where 8 inches blanketed Nantucket Island. Colchester, Conn., recorded 7 1/2 inches, and 4 to 8 inches fell on Rhode Island. Schools were closed in parts of Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Maryland.
Freezing rain and snow created rush-hour havoc throughout the Northeast, and travelers' advisories were in effect from the Virginias to eastern New York. Dozens of traffic accidents were reported.
"It's a demolition derby out there," said state police Cpl. Stephen Riland in Maryland.
A truck carrying barrels of toxic chemicals overturned on a snow-slick road in Hoosick, N.Y. The barrels did not leak, and no students were in a school across the street from the accident because classes were canceled, authorities said.
About 15 houses in Chester County, Pa., were evacuated overnight when the cold caused a gas main to rupture. No gas escaped before repairs were completed, and residents were allowed to return home before dawn.
The storm is expected to move out to sea by Thursday.
Heavy Rain in South
In the South, heavy rain continued for a second day in parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia. Nearly 6 inches fell on New Orleans in 48 hours, and totals of 2 to 4 inches were common for the area.
The deluge swelled the Ocmulgee and Oconee rivers in central Georgia above flood stage, although no overflow was reported. Six families were evacuated from homes in low-lying areas along the Oconee in Milledgeville after Georgia Power Co. opened dam flood gates to keep Lake Sinclair from jumping its banks.
In northeast Georgia, where Tuesday's ice and freezing rain pulled down numerous power lines, emergency workers had restored electricity to nearly all the more than 3,600 affected customers.
Tennessee residents weren't so lucky, however: At least 500 customers in Sewanee remained without power for a fifth day, and officials of the Black Duck Electric Membership Corp. said repairs might not be completed until the weekend.
Frigid temperatures dogged the country's midsection, where low-temperature records were broken this morning in Fayetteville, Ark., where it was 3 below zero, and Fort Smith, Ark., where it was 6 above.