By Karen Brooks
AUSTIN, Texas, Dec 5 (Reuters) - Americans from Texas to New York were steeling on Thursday for an icy blast of winter storms expected to blanket roads and power lines with ice and threaten travel across a wide swath of the United States, forecasters said.
The Southern plains and Central region are likely to be hardest hit, with up to an inch of ice in some regions, according to the National Weather Service.
Freezing rain was reported in parts of northwest Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas early on Thursday.
The mix of snow, ice, rain and plunging temperatures was expected to spread north to central Kentucky and southern Ohio on Thursday night and early Friday, AccuWeather.com forecasters said.
In Arkansas, energy officials were bracing for days-long power outages amid forecasts of up to an inch of ice in some parts of the state.
In Texas, temperatures had dropped to near freezing by daybreak after exceeding 80 degrees earlier in the week, and snow and ice were expected overnight.
"In some locations, a glaze of ice may span several days and last into the weekend," meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said on AccuWeather.com. "Enough ice can accumulate on trees and utility lines in these areas over several days to cause blocked roads and regional power outages."
Further north, states from Missouri to New York are likely to see more snow than ice as the wintry weather hits Thursday evening, bringing up to six inches of snow to cities including St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Albany, New York, meteorologists said.
Some events were being canceled in communities in southwest Missouri, where the National Weather Service posted a winter storm warning that forecast sleet and ice turning to snow by evening. Four to 8 inches of snow were predicted into Friday.
"It's unfolding as we speak," said weather service meteorologist Andy Foster in Springfield, Missouri. "We're going to see widespread precipitation. This evening, we will see travel conditions severely impacted."
The frigid weather sweeping across the Midwest and Southern Plains comes in the wake of a storm that dumped up to 22 inches of snow in parts of Minnesota earlier this week and continued to threaten states such as Pennsylvania and Michigan early on Thursday.
California and Oregon will not be spared the chill, with record-setting low temperatures predicted through the weekend and a freeze that could threaten citrus and other crops in the area, AccuWeather.com officials said.
(Additional reporting by Kevin Murphy in Kansas City, Missouri; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Dan Grebler)