NASHVILLE — Thousands of students stayed home from school Wednesday as a storm spread ice and as much as a foot of snow from the Texas Panhandle to Virginia, making roads slippery and knocking out power to thousands of people.
Slippery roads were blamed for at least two deaths in Kentucky traffic accidents, and ice contributed to one death in Tennessee, police said.
"It's nasty -- sleet, snow, freezing rain, a little bit of everything," said Shari Clapp with the Kentucky State Police.
Snow fell from the Texas Panhandle to the central Appalachians in southwestern Virginia. Only a few inches hit most areas, but nearly a foot piled up in the Oklahoma Panhandle, and trees and power lines were coated with ice statewide.
In the Appalachians, the Blue Ridge Parkway was shut down in North Carolina. Snow was a foot deep on a section of the parkway, National Park Service spokeswoman Pansy Clark said.
Schools were closed in nearly a dozen states, including Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, the Carolinas and Virginia. Some Georgia schools closed in anticipation of icy roads.
More than 100,000 students were sent home early by North Carolina's Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools, and South Carolina Gov. Jim Hodges told state agency heads to let workers go home early in 22 counties.
Some businesses also closed early. "Some of us have to drive 20 miles to get home, and it would be nice to get there before the worst of this hits," said Debbie Martin of Gainesville, about 50 miles northeast of Atlanta.
About 37,000 homes and businesses were blacked out in Oklahoma, utility officials said. Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin declared 42 of the state's 77 counties disaster emergency areas.
About 56,000 homes and businesses had no electricity in northern Arkansas, and utilities said it might be Saturday before some people got service back.