A layer of ice and snow accompanied by plunging temperatures swept across broad sections of the country Friday, leading to the cancellation of hundreds of flights and events and forcing holiday shipping delays.
In Dallas, airlines operating out of the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport canceled more than 340 departures Friday — about 40 percent of the scheduled traffic in and out of the airport, said a spokesman, David Magaña. Friday's delays came on top of more than 500 flights canceled the day before.
American Airlines said Friday that it had grounded more than 900 flights, nationwide and internationally, because of the weather. The airline allowed passengers traveling through a number of cities in a region extending from Texas to Ohio to change tickets without being charged a fee.
Southwest Airlines canceled dozens of flights around the country. Bad weather contributed to delays at airports in Cincinnati; Newark, N.J.; and Philadelphia.
The National Weather Service had issued winter storm or ice warnings Friday for a large swath of the central United States, including Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.
In Missouri, temperatures were more than 40 degrees colder than they had been earlier in the week, forecasters said.
Meanwhile, businesses small and large are waiting for pickups, and consumers are receiving notices that their packages will be delayed because of a massive, icy blast that will eventually hit from coast to coast.
For people who rely on the shipping industry, the storm comes at the worst time: the height of the holiday mailing season.
“Really, with this event, we are looking at it almost like we would a hurricane,” said Lucas McDonald, a senior emergency manager for Walmart Stores Inc. Knowing hazardous conditions were coming, the company shipped extra merchandise to stores ahead of the storm.
Memphis, Tenn.,-based FedEx, too, notified customers of delays.
“On any given day we have 1,000 contingency plans in place,” FedEx spokesman Scott Fiedler said.
At UPS's Global Operations Centers in Louisville, Ky., five meteorologists are monitoring global weather around the clock.
Dallas suspended its light rail service early Friday after switches began to freeze and trains began to stall because of icy overhead wires.
Dallas was bracing for sleet and freezing rain through today, according to the weather service. Organizers canceled an annual holiday parade in the city, along with Sunday's Dallas Marathon.
Students at Oklahoma State University were evicted by school officials from a makeshift tent community they set up ahead of today's rivalry football game against the University of Oklahoma.
Debbie McCarthy, the university's athletics coordinator of special events, said that officials were worried about propane heaters starting a fire.
The city of St. Louis opened its first cold-weather shelter of the season and warned residents to dress in layers inside and outside.
Even for people living in areas accustomed to long, intense winters, temperatures have been uncomfortably cold. Friday, schools were ordered closed from Montana to Ohio.
The storm has already dumped 1 to 2 feet of snow in parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin and draped many communities in skin-stinging cold.
The Major League Soccer championship, scheduled for Kansas City, Kan., today, will begin with temperatures in the low 20s. Dozens of other sporting events have been rescheduled, including a state high school football championship game in Oklahoma that had been set for Friday in Stillwater.
At least eight fatal traffic accidents — from Minnesota to Texas — have been linked to the weather, authorities said.
This article contains material the Associated Press.