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Wide range of wintry conditions affects half of US

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Sunday, March 2, 2014 - 3:16 pm

WASHINGTON — Tourists flocked to the monuments in the nation's capital Sunday to enjoy spring-like 50 degree temperatures after a winter of one blast of snow and sub-zero temperatures after another.

Joggers were out in shorts and T-shirts on the National Mall, home to treasured Smithsonian museums and landmarks like the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. Families flew kites around the mall while tour guides led groups around the memorials. Cherry blossom trees were growing new buds for the spring.

But oh how so much can change in a matter of hours. More snow and ice, perhaps as much as 2 inches falling every hour, were on the way ahead of Monday's morning commute.

"I'm over it," said Yasmon Hanks, 24, of Hampton, Va., echoing thoughts of many who've been cooped up inside this winter. Hanks visited the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington with her husband, Lynwood, and two young children. She was happy to be able to get outside, she said, because "I thought it was going to be way worse."

A round of wintry precipitation moved across much of the nation Sunday, bringing a mix of freezing rain and heavy snow to central and eastern states. Authorities warned of possible power outages and flight disruptions from weather that could affect millions.

Ken and Linda Mokry of Chicago took advantage of the 54-degree temperature in Washington to visit as many monuments as possible before the storm.

"You've got grass! We don't even have grass to see at home yet," Linda Mokry, 66, said. "We had our first snow right at the end of November ... and we've had snow ever since then, so we've had a long, long winter — way too long."

Ken Mokry noticed the cherry blossom trees are forming tiny buds, making him wish spring would arrive sooner so they could see the trees blossom in pink and white.

"I hope this cold snap doesn't hurt anything," he said. "We were really hoping that we would be able to see them. Maybe next time."

Much of the worst weather was expected to pound the East Coast. In Washington and the Mid-Atlantic region, forecasters predicted a layer of ice and 8 to 12 inches of snow possible on Monday. That could be enough to shut down schools and offices yet again this season.

The National Weather Service called for 6 to 8 inches of snow across parts of southern Pennsylvania. Nearly a foot of snow was expected in parts of New Jersey.

In Pittsburgh, snow began falling about dawn and was expected to taper off before another band of snow hits early Monday. Forecasters were expecting 3 to 6 inches total. Philadelphia was expected to get four to 8 inches through Monday. More than 6 inches would make it the city's second snowiest winter, surpassing 65.5 inches that fell in 1995-96.

Nearly 1,600 flights in the United States were canceled and another 1,515 delayed Sunday afternoon, according to flight tracking site FlightAware.com. The bulk of the problems were in Dallas, Chicago and Newark, N.J. Another 1,115 flights for Monday were also already canceled. There are more than 30,000 U.S. flights on a typical day.

In Ohio, among those braving treacherous conditions was Patty Lee, who drove some 20 miles from Cincinnati to suburban Blue Ash for a job interview. She joked that her first job test was making it through the icy parking lot without falling down.

"The roads are deteriorating pretty quickly," she said after returning to Cincinnati.

A suspension bridge over the Ohio River between Cincinnati and Kentucky was closed Sunday because of ice covering its hard-to-treat metal grid deck.

Freezing rain and sleet moved across Kentucky, making road travel treacherous Sunday. Officials warned residents to avoid unnecessary travel. Parts of the state could receive up to 8 inches of sleet and snow through Monday. Churches throughout the state canceled services.

The eastern West Virginia panhandle could get up to a foot of snow. That sent residents on a hunt for food, water and supplies.

In the Midwest, arctic cold temperatures hit Nebraska. Forecasters said Sunday's single-digit high temperatures could set records across the state. And wind chills 20-to-35 degrees below zero were reported Sunday.

Snowfall amounts across Indiana range from nearly 9 inches in northwestern Indiana to 1.7 inches in Indianapolis.

The same weather system inundated California with rain. Four hikers were rescued overnight after they became trapped by rising floodwaters in Malibu Creek State Park. Authorities were warning of mudslides and swollen creeks and drainage channels.