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The ice, man, cometh to the nation's middle, Northeast

By Greg Botelho, CNN
February 5, 2014 -- Updated 0223 GMT (1023 HKT)
Workmen clear a downed tree blocking a school bus in the aftermath of a winter storm on Friday, February 7, in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. Utility companies scrambled to restore power to parts of the Northeast early Friday as hundreds of thousands shivered in the dark after a powerful snowstorm. Workmen clear a downed tree blocking a school bus in the aftermath of a winter storm on Friday, February 7, in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. Utility companies scrambled to restore power to parts of the Northeast early Friday as hundreds of thousands shivered in the dark after a powerful snowstorm.
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Snowstorm slams the heartland, Northeast
Snowstorm slams the heartland, Northeast
Snowstorm slams the heartland, Northeast
Snowstorm slams the heartland, Northeast
Snowstorm slams the heartland, Northeast
Snowstorm slams the heartland, Northeast
Snowstorm slams the heartland, Northeast
Snowstorm slams the heartland, Northeast
Snowstorm slams the heartland, Northeast
Snowstorm slams the heartland, Northeast
Snowstorm slams the heartland, Northeast
Snowstorm slams the heartland, Northeast
Snowstorm slams the heartland, Northeast
Snowstorm slams the heartland, Northeast
Snowstorm slams the heartland, Northeast
Snowstorm slams the heartland, Northeast
Snowstorm slams the heartland, Northeast
Snowstorm slams the heartland, Northeast
Snowstorm slams the heartland, Northeast
Snowstorm slams the heartland, Northeast
Snowstorm slams the heartland, Northeast
Snowstorm slams the heartland, Northeast
Snowstorm slams the heartland, Northeast
Snowstorm slams the heartland, Northeast
Snowstorm slams the heartland, Northeast
Snowstorm slams the heartland, Northeast
Snowstorm slams the heartland, Northeast
Snowstorm slams the heartland, Northeast
Snowstorm slams the heartland, Northeast
Snowstorm slams the heartland, Northeast
Snowstorm slams the heartland, Northeast
Snowstorm slams the heartland, Northeast
Snowstorm slams the heartland, Northeast
Snowstorm slams the heartland, Northeast
Snowstorm slams the heartland, Northeast
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: One town in Kansas gets 13 inches of snow, CNN affiliate says
  • NEW: Southwest plane hits snow bank on taxiway at Kansas City International Airport
  • NEW: Kansas City tells business to stagger start times to help with rush hour traffic
  • NEW: Tens of thousands without power in Arkansas

Have you been affected by the latest snowstorm? Share your photos, videos with CNN iReport.

(CNN) -- When might someone who has been pummeled by round, after round, after round of snow wish for, of all things, more snow?

When the alternative is ice.

Granted, a huge swath of the United States didn't have that option Tuesday. The National Weather Service said a stretch from Wyoming east to Maine was getting socked with snow.

Officials in Kansas blamed the weather for the deaths of two people in a car accident in Crawford County.

The weather service's website cited winter storm warnings for much of the nation's midsection and into northern New England. CNN's weather unit estimates that 120 million people were in the system's path.

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Be prepared for bad weather

Residents of Topeka, Kansas, should see 7 to 11 inches of flakes by the end of the day. Enterprise, 80 miles to the west, had already seen 13 inches of snow by Tuesday evening, CNN affiliate WIBW reported.

A Southwest plane at Kansas City International Airport hit a snow bank as the airliner was taxing to the gate, according to airline spokeswoman Whitney Eichinger. Southwest said all customers were safe and at the terminal.

But the ice is coming to other parts of the country. Freezing rain warnings have been issued for large parts of Virginia and the Washington metropolitan area, where trees, power lines and roads could be coated by early Wednesday.

After enduring a recent record-breaking snow, New Yorkers could get a mix of snow and sleet beginning Tuesday night that could encrust the city with nearly half an inch of ice by Wednesday.

On the New Jersey emergency management office's Twitter feed, meteorologist Gary Szatowski said the National Weather Service's "reasonable worst case scenario" for parts of that state and others nearby call for 0.75 inches of ice accumulation that could lead to as many as five days of power outages.

As Szatowski said: "Some would call that catastrophic."

Governors act

Such conditions are expected to cause a nightmare commute Wednesday morning in and around the New York metro area, among other places.

But the nightmare may come sooner elsewhere.

In Arkansas, the prospect of freezing rain spurred Gov. Mike Beebe to tell nonessential state employees to stay home Tuesday.

CNN affiliate KATV reported that tens of thousands of people in the state would be without power through at least Wednesday morning. Most of those customers were with Entergy Arkansas, which reported 40,000 outages. Temperatures were going to reach a low of 28 degrees in Little Rock, the station reported.

Arkansas is on the western edge of freezing rain forecast through Tuesday night -- a line that stretches east-northeastward into Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and points east.

Generally, places north of that line will get snow and those south will get rain.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie each issued a state of emergency. Christie advised residents to drive carefully or stay home.

Kansas City, Missouri, officials told business to stagger start times on Wednesday to make morning traffic easier, something the city has never done before, said a spokesman for the city's public works department.

In Texas, Gov. Rick Perry renewed a waiver that makes it easier for trucks to transport propane through his state to others that have declared a propane emergency.

Frozen night ahead

In Three Rivers, Michigan, CNN iReporter Diana Etman took pictures of mountains of snow in a Walmart parking lot. "I was very much surprised at how big they were," the 56-year-old registered nurse said.

But it's what happens after whatever falls to the ground -- especially once temperatures dip below freezing in some areas after nightfall -- that has some especially concerned.

And authorities are also telling people to be careful in places where only snow has fallen.

The weather service, for instance, said that whatever snow may have melted from the storm that dumped a record 8 inches on New York's Central Park may have refrozen overnight.

Ice could become even more of a problem after fresh snow begins early Wednesday in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

"Then the warm air comes in, and it rains -- and it's going to be 32," CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said. "It's going to be a mess."

Up to a foot of snow

Not that snow itself won't make things plenty messy in some places.

Residents of Kansas City, Missouri, could see up to a foot of snow by Tuesday's end. And more than a foot of snow is predicted through Wednesday for much of Upper New York state, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

The weather will mean headaches not just for those hoping to hit the road, but also those trying to fly.

More than 1,600 flights were canceled by late Tuesday evening, and more than 3,900 were delayed within, into or out of the United States, according to FlightAware.com. And the backlog will only grow Wednesday as more than 1,700 flights have already been called off for the day.

The most affected airport Tuesday -- with more than 180 canceled departures -- was O'Hare International in Chicago, which just finished its third-snowiest January ever.

This is due to the second wintry blast this year for the Northeast. Last month, extreme cold, strong winds and snow pummeled communities from New York to Maine.

The third one may be the worst, forecasters said.

Myers, the CNN meteorologist, said that a massive nor'easter could bear down early next week.

"This is the starter," he said of the current blast of snow, "the appetizer to what's coming -- which is a major nor'easter coming on Monday."

CNN's Tom Watkins, Ed Payne, Chandrika Narayan, Catherine E. Shoichet and Haimy Assefa contributed to this report.

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