Snow and ice storms in the United States over the weekend have left at least 14 people dead, with the latest fatalities in an ice-covered street in the western state of Oklahoma on Sunday.
According to the US broadcaster CNN, a van carrying 12 people through Elk City, Oklahoma, skidded on the ice and crashed, killing seven. Entire states were as if submerged in ice, was how Chicago broadcaster WGN described the weather phenomenon.
Other deaths occurred in Missouri, where Governor Matt Blunt declared a state of emergency and activated National Guard troops. "No one is travelling in Missouri unless they need to travel," Blunt said.
An estimated 200,000 people in Missouri alone are without power, which Blunt said raised added concerns about the "well being of individual Missourians."
From Texas to Oklahoma to Missouri, the freezing rain and snow brought road and rail transport to a standstill in some states and broke trees and electric lines. California and much of the Middle West was bracing for at least another day of chill.
In normally sunny, warm California, millions of dollars in crops, including lemons and avocados, were destroyed. Late Friday, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency and ordered National Guard armouries, fairgrounds and other facilities opened for shelter for the homeless.
Snow, seldom seen in California, fell in some areas in the south of the state. Record freezing temperatures were forecast by the National Weather Service for the weekend for the Los Angeles Basin and the prime growing region of the Central Valley.
Experts are expecting further major storms in the US.
Although weather in the US mid-west had been unseasonably warm, "winter is likely to come with a vengeance," said meteorologist Joe Bastardi, quoted by the Columbus Dispatch daily. "There are indications that this winter could parallel severe winters of the past."