By Victoria Cavaliere
NEW YORK, March 2 (Reuters) - A massive winter storm system packing cold air, snow and freezing rain was pummeling the central United States on Sunday and headed for the East Coast, sending temperatures plummeting and causing major delays for weekend travelers.
Rainfall and snow associated with the system will stretch over 1,500 miles (2,414 km), stretching from southeastern Colorado to southern Massachusetts, meteorologists said.
The storm "is going to be a real mess," said Bruce Sullivan, a senior meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Silver Spring, Maryland.
"The main system is injecting a lot of moisture and cold air out over the Southern Plains," he said. "It's going to bring quite a bit of precipitation."
Up to 12 inches (30 cm) of snow could fall on an area from eastern Kansas to Pennsylvania before the system dissipates on Monday.
More than 1,300 flights were canceled and another 1,744 were delayed as of late Sunday morning, according to the airline tracking site FlightAware.com.
"Ripple-effect flight delays and cancellations are likely to reach nationwide," said AccuWeather meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.
The storm could also further deplete salt supplies used to ice roads and highways, already at critical lows after a snowy winter in the Northeast.
Boston and New York City should see only light snowfall, but lingering freezing rain could complicate Monday morning's rush hour for commuters.
Parts of southwest Ohio were under a snow emergency on Sunday and in Lake County, northeast of Cleveland, 43 percent of residents, had lost power, authorities said.
Central Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky were also at risk for heavy ice conditions and power outages, according to AccuWeather.
Though temperatures will not be as frigid as during some other storm systems this winter, when the so-called polar vortex pushed Arctic air across large swaths of the county, the cold air will blanket areas as far south as Texas and North Carolina.
Temperatures in the city of Lubbock, Texas, in the northwestern part of the state, were around 80F (26C) on Saturday but by Sunday morning were a bone-chilling 18F (minus 7C), Sullivan said.
Forecasters urged motorists to use caution as slick roads and fast-moving bands of snow can lead to traffic accidents.
On Saturday in Colorado, a heavy dump of snow midday led to a 104-vehicle pileup in Denver, leaving one woman dead and 30 other people hospitalized, police and local media said. (Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere, additional reporting by Kim Palmer in Cleveland; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Sophie Hares)
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