LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A wintry blast coated parts of Kentucky and Tennessee with sleet and ice early Friday, forcing schools to close as forecasters predicted the storm would deliver a second punch with snow. Meanwhile, parts of Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama braced for another round of winter weather.
Winter conditions made for hazardous driving conditions in Tennessee and Kentucky.
Truck stop employee Paige Harville said traffic was much lighter than usual along Interstate 24 at Paducah, Kentucky. "There's not much of it," she said. "Like nothing."
It took her longer to drive to work, avoiding the back road she usually takes because of sleet.
"It was pretty slick," she said. "I had to drive pretty slow."
Winter storm warnings were posted for the western halves of both states as unseasonably warm weather in recent days gave way to frigid conditions. Forecasters predicted snow would cover the sheets of ice as temperatures dropped as the storm moved east.
In western Kentucky, roads were covered with layers of ice. On top of that was about three tenths of an inch of sleet, said National Weather Service meteorologist Robin Smith.
"Don't go out unless you absolutely have to," Smith warned.
Winds up to 35 mph (56 kph) further complicated driving.
"That's buffeting the vehicles as well," Smith said.
Many school districts in Kentucky and Tennessee called off classes Friday. Several colleges and universities in both states also canceled classes, including at Vanderbilt University, Murray State University and Western Kentucky University.
Some flights were canceled at the Memphis airport.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam closed state offices Friday in West and Middle Tennessee due to the winter weather. The weather service warned that thick ice could topple trees and cause power outages.
The winter storm prompted Kentucky House and Senate leaders to call off Friday's legislative session.
In northern Alabama, tens of thousands of people got the day off because of the possibility of icy weather. School systems in the state's Tennessee Valley region shut down Friday as forecasters warned of the possibility of ice, sleet and snow that could coat roads. Four universities also closed, and several counties closed their offices for the day.
In central Louisiana, forecasters said parts of the state could get slick as rain was expected to slowly transition to freezing rain or a sleet and snow mix. In Mississippi, a light wintry mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain was possible in the state's northern counties through early Friday afternoon.