Heavy snow, ice bury southern Plains, cut power

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A stormthat toppled power lines, shutdown major highways and buried parts of the southern Plains in heavy ice and snow began moving into the South early Friday, leaving tens of thousands of people in the dark - possibly for several more days.

Winter storm warnings were in effect from New Mexico to North Carolina after about 13 inches of snow fell Thursday in the northern Texas Panhandle, where Interstate 40 was closed from the Texas-Oklahoma line to New Mexico.

Heavy ice brought down electrical lines and trees limbs, leaving nearly 142,000 homes and businesses in Oklahoma without power early Friday, according to the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.

"In some places, as far you can see there are hundreds of utility poles on the ground," said Andrea Chancellor, spokeswoman for Public Service Company of Oklahoma. She said it could be five days before electricity is restored to all customers.

More than two dozen flights were canceled Friday morning at Oklahoma City's main airport.

The snow, sleet and freezing rain were expected to crawl east through Friday. In Arkansas, as much as 10 inches of snow could fall near the Missouri border, northern parts of central Tennessee could see up to 8 inches and western North Carolina could get hit with a foot of snow, according to the National Weather Service.

More snow also was expected in Oklahoma, where dozens of shelters were opened for those who needed a warm place to stay, including First United Methodist Church in Hobart, about 120 miles southwest of Oklahoma City. Pastor Kyle Clark said downed trees and utility poles littered the slick roadways and most of the town of about 4,000 residents had no electricity.

"We've got gas heat and we are illuminating the place with candles," Clark said late Thursday.

Further southwest in Altus, home to about 7,000 residences and businesses, power was out except at the hospital and other emergency operations with generators, said emergency management director Lloyd Colston.

More than 100 flights were canceled at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City on Thursday due to concerns about ice buildup on planes, and more than two dozen flights were canceled Friday morning, according to the airport's Web site. Flights were also canceled in Tulsa and in Texas out of Lubbock, Amarillo and Wichita Falls, officials said.

The Texas Department of Transportation closed I-40 from the New Mexico state line to the Texas-Oklahoma border and a few other major roadways late Thursday after the region was buried in more than a foot of snow.

Downed power lines and icy, dangerous road conditions also temporarily closed a 50-mile stretch of Interstate 44 southwest of Oklahoma City and parts of I-40 in far western Oklahoma and eastern New Mexico.

National Weather Service meteorologist Patrick Burke said another wave of precipitation would move up through Texas and into Oklahoma overnight, bringing colder air and additional chances for snow in areas already hit.

Up to 8 inches of snow in counties northwest of Lubbock was possible.

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