DURHAM, N.C. — A snow and ice storm blasted parts of the Mid-Atlantic and the South on Tuesday, creating treacherous road conditions and leaving hundreds of thousands without power.
Officials — hoping to avoid a repeat of disastrous winter 2014 storms, when rush-hour traffic and a thin coating of ice left people stuck in cars or abandoning vehicles in Atlanta and Raleigh — urged people to stay off the roads in several states, but wrecks were reported along slick streets.
Schools and offices closed for the day, outages hit especially hard in the Carolinas and Georgia, and hundreds of flights were canceled.
In Durham, N.C., the snow on the roads was mostly untouched — indicating that drivers were probably listening to warnings.
"It doesn't look like there's a whole lot of tracks," said Frank Garrard, 65, a retired plumbing contractor. "Maybe they're getting smart enough not to venture out."
Joe Peldunas — a New Jersey native — shrugged about Southerners and snow. "They don't know how to drive," he said.
As Peldunas shoveled his driveway, no one else in the quiet Durham neighborhood was out. "In New Jersey, as soon as the snow stops, we get up and start shoveling," he said.
The storm also was affecting businesses. Khalil Ghanayem, whose family owns a restaurant that doubles as a Subway restaurant and coffee shop, says about 15 customers had come in by 9:30 — a fraction of their normal rush hour business. Still, those who came were glad they were open.
"They are just sitting at home, but they really want coffee and donuts," he said.
Central North Carolina expected about a quarter inch of snow and ice. Up to 3 inches of snow and sleet was forecast for the northeastern part of the state.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said at a morning news conference that 56,000 utility customers were without power as of 7 a.m., with most of the outages occurring in south-central North Carolina. And McCrory said a 19-year-old woman had died when she lost control of her vehicle in Hertford County. He did not provide further details.
McCrory and emergency officials warned of treacherous conditions further into the work week, with low temperatures likely to freeze or refreeze what fell.
"I cannot stress this enough — please stay off the roads until conditions improve," McCrory said. "This is not your typical North Carolina winter storm. The extended low temperatures ... will make this a very dangerous event for several days. ... We're going to have major black ice issues."
In Greenville, S.C., a place unaccustomed to nasty winter weather, the roads were coated with a half inch of ice. Despite warnings not to drive, deliveryman Vincent Nash was out trying to work.
"You have to be careful. People don't know how to drive in this weather," he said. His advice: "Go slow. Don't be in a hurry."
James and Mary Campbell also were among the few out driving, searching for an open spot for breakfast. They weren't too worried, saying it would warm up soon, but Mary had one concern: that the flowers that were starting to come up in her yard would die. "I can't wait until spring," she said.
In Washington, some areas saw 2 to 6 inches of snow, and the storm was the worst of the season, said Andy Woodcock, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
"It certainly pales in comparison to anything happening in Boston, but it's the most snow that we've seen here in one shot," he said.
The federal government closed its Washington-area offices for nonemergency personnel. The closure — the first of the winter — was expected to keep tens of thousands of commuters off the roads and rails Tuesday morning and afternoon.
Brenda Lane, 55, used a broom to brush off her car. She expected it would take about an hour to free it — she planned to take her time before heading to work at a grocery store in suburban Maryland.
"There's no sense getting mad at it," she said. "I deal with what the Lord sends my way."
The storm had initially moved across Arkansas and Kentucky, dispersing snow, sleet and freezing rain that prompted power outages, fender benders and other woes.
Freezing rain fell as far south as Mississippi. In Virginia, more than 500 wrecks were reported, and Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency. More than 125 Virginia National Guardsmen were poised to help stranded motorists and clean up storm debris.
In Arlington, just across the Potomac River from Washington, streets were clear but fairly quiet Tuesday morning. A man who hands out a free newspaper at the Metro gave copies to the few riders.
In Richmond, Scott Birch, 62, he told his crew of 35 at his roofing company to take the day off. He expects that on Wednesday, they'll be out shoveling snow off roofs.
"Once this stuff starts melting there is a lot of weight," Birch said.
Outside the South, other states also dealt with recent snowfall. More than 8 inches fell in parts of Indiana. Southern New Jersey and suburban Philadelphia residents also coped with several inches of accumulation.
And from north to south, bitterly cold temperatures piled on as people shoveled snow or dealt with ice. In New Orleans, Mardi Gras revelers on "Fat Tuesday" were forced to button up, with unseasonably low temperatures in the 30s and 40s.
Weiss reported from Greenville, S.C. Associated Press writers Amanda Lee Myers in Washington and Jessica Gresko in Arlington, Va., contributed.