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A deadly winter storm that glazed roadways, closed schools and left hundreds of thousands without power moved its way north Thursday, threatening to dump several inches of snow on cities along the East Coast.

The first flakes started to fall in the Northeast before dawn, and up to 8 inches could pile up in parts of New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey before it's finished.

In Philadelphia, all public and parochial schools were closed before the storm even arrived. At least 125 school districts canceled classes Thursday in New Jersey.

The storm spread freezing rain and up to a foot of snow from the Texas Panhandle to Virginia on Wednesday. Slippery roads were blamed in at least six traffic deaths, including two each in Kentucky and Missouri and one each in Tennessee and North Carolina.

``We've got wrecks everywhere,'' said Sgt. D.A. Shaver, spokesman for the Virginia State Police. ``We're calling troopers in to handle the influx, but it will get worse before it gets better.''

The blustery weather in the South was expected to taper off Thursday as temperatures warm, but officials warned residents to remain cautious.

``The best thing for people to do is stay inside, off the roads and out of harm's way,'' North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley said late Wednesday.

The Carolinas were among the hardest hit by the storm. More than 100,000 students were sent home early Wednesday in the Charlotte area; classes were canceled again Thursday. Duke Power reported 660,000 customers without power Thursday morning in the two states.

South Carolina Gov. Jim Hodges told state agency heads to let workers go home early in 22 counties ahead of the storm.

The Blue Ridge Parkway was shut down in North Carolina as a foot of snow piled up in some areas. Fort Campbell, the army post along the Kentucky-Tennessee line, closed down.

``Man, it's cold. That wind's been blowing steady,'' said Greg Conner, 35, a construction worker working on a new hospital in Nashville, Tenn. A solid sheet of ice covered part of the construction site.

Georgia had also braced for the worst, but temperatures overnight stayed largely above freezing as pockets of heavy rain moved across parts of the state. Power outages totaled only around 6,000, and most had electricity restored by dawn Thursday.

Hardware stores and supermarkets were reporting brisk sales as people prepared for the worst.

``It's been a little wild,'' said Wayne Broyles, owner of an Earl's True Value Hardware store in Fredericksburg, Va. ``It put a smile on my face.''

To the west, Mason Modglin, 5, of Anna, Ill., got his ``first official snow day,'' said his mother, Jean Modglin.

``He told me, 'Mom, I looked outside with my little eyes and it was all white!''' said Modglin, who manages a bookstore.

In Oklahoma, which was hard hit as the system developed earlier in the week, crews had power restored to all but about 1,100 customers by early Thursday, Oklahoma Gas & Electric officials said. In all, about 60,000 homes and businesses, including 25,000 OG&E customers, had lost power at some point.

Parts of northwestern Oklahoma got nearly a foot of snow, while other parts of the state got freezing rain.


On the Net:

National Weather Service: http://iwin.nws.noaa.gov

Intellicast: http://www.intellicast.com

University of Michigan site: http://cirrus.sprl.umich.edu/wxnet