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Fly fisherman Mike Gasiecki trudges through snow while fly fishing during a winter blizzard in Hopeville Canyon, West Virginia December 8, 2013. Credit: Reuters/Gary Cameron

Storm pushes up U.S. East Coast after deep freeze in the South

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(Reuters) - A massive winter storm that left parts of the Southeastern United States in a deep freeze pushed up the East Coast on Sunday, with snow and ice snarling road travel and forcing another round of airline cancellations.

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The storm system dropped between 3 and 6 inches of snow on West Virginia early Sunday before blanketing the Washington, D.C., metro area with its first accumulation of the season.

Marching north, it was expected to pummel the East Coast with snow, sleet, and freezing rain from Baltimore to north of Portland, Maine, according to the National Weather Service.

The storm system coated roads and highways from Virginia through southeastern Pennsylvania with snow and ice, and reduced visibility made car travel treacherous. The Delaware Memorial Bridge, which links Delaware with New Jersey, was closed briefly "due to ice and multiple accidents," according to the bridge's official Twitter account.

Parts of Maryland, Delaware and southern New Jersey could get up to a foot of snow, said Brian Hurley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

"What's really significant about this system is this narrow band of heavy snow in some areas," he said.

Flights to and from Philadelphia International were temporarily grounded, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

Just to the west of Philadelphia, near Morgantown, more than 50 cars and trucks were damaged in a series of chain-reaction crashes on the Pennsylvania Turnpike just after noon on Sunday, turnpike spokesman Carl DeFebo said.

The crash that started the chain reaction involved 12 vehicles. One man was killed when he exited his vehicle after that crash, DeFebo said.

In the Northeast, the storm system closed in on New York City and could linger over the tri-state area through Monday morning's rush hour commute. The New York City Department of Sanitation issued a "snow alert" starting Sunday afternoon, and was preparing salt spreaders and plows to clear covered roads.

An expected 1 to 3 inches of snowfall in Philadelphia and New York City would be the first of the season, and comes about 10 days earlier than the average first snowfall, according to the National Weather Service.

2,500 FLIGHTS CANCELED

Professional football games went ahead but several players were injured by slipping on the slick fields.

Snow covered the ground and stands at Baltimore's M&T Stadium, where the Baltimore Ravens played the Minnesota Vikings in driving wind and 25-degree Fahrenheit (minus 4 Celsius) conditions. The Philadelphia Eagles beat the Detroit Lions in near white-out conditions.

The blast of cold air and precipitation also brought light snowfall to the Midwest, including parts of Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin.

A number of traffic accidents were reported on Milwaukee-area roads and freeways, including a pileup of as many as 20 cars that shut down a highway in Racine County. In a separate crash, one person was killed after a vehicle flipped over along a slick road, the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office said.

In Arizona, about 300 vehicles were stuck overnight Saturday to Sunday on a mountainous, 30-mile stretch of Interstate 15 in northwestern Arizona after heavy snow and icy conditions led to a chain-reaction crash set off by multiple jack-knifing semi-trailer trucks, said Bart Graves, spokesman for the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

No one was hurt, despite multiple vehicles crashing into each other or skidding off the road, Graves said. More than 2,500 flights were canceled nationwide on Sunday, according to tracking website Flightaware.com. Airports in Newark, New Jersey, New York City, and Philadelphia reported delays.

More than 2,000 stranded passengers slept on cots and in chairs at the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport Saturday night, down from about 4,000 the night before, said spokesman David Magana.

Sunday evening, more than 1,000 passengers planned to stay overnight at the airport, Magana said. Airport officials provided tents for families with small children, as well as musicians, comedians, face-painters and balloon artists to amuse the stuck passengers, he said.

More than 400 scheduled Dallas-Ft. Worth departures were canceled by mid-afternoon on Sunday, he said.

North Texas was still shivering under below-freezing temperatures left behind after an ice storm knocked out power lines, leaving some 267,000 customers in without power at the height of the storm, according to utility provider Oncor.

The storm also battered Arkansas and Tennessee with ice, snow and zero-degree temperatures, leaving streets a slick and slushy danger zone. At least three people were killed when their cars skidded off the road, authorities said.

As many as 7,000 people in Tennessee were still without power Sunday. "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 Arctic chill from the storm was so widespread that Western states, including Nevada, Washington and California, were slammed with snow, sleet and record-setting cold temperatures, according to the National Weather Service.

Temperatures in Jordan, Montana, fell to a record low of 42 degrees Fahrenheit below zero (minus 41 degrees Celsius) on December 7, also the lowest temperature recorded for the country during the storm.

The cold weather system will leave the East Coast on Monday, the National Weather Service said.

(Additional reporting by Timothy Ghianni and Jonathan Kaminsky; Editing by Daniel Trotta, Marguerita Choy, Sharon Bernstein and Jackie Frank)

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