DURHAM, N.C. — Snow and sleet pounded a large swath of the East Coast on Saturday, coating roads with ice and causing hundreds of crashes. Thousands of people lost power and forecasters warned of blizzardlike conditions from Virginia to parts of the Northeast.

Police investigated several fatal crashes as potentially storm-related, but some of the South’s biggest cities – Atlanta, Charlotte and Raleigh – appeared to avoid the worst of the storm. Authorities praised residents for learning the lessons of past storms that resulted in icy gridlock, where thousands of people were stranded along the interstates. But officials warned that bitter cold would keep roads treacherous well after the snow and sleet stopped.

“If I tell you anything it would be stay home,” Gov. Roy Cooper said. “Do not go out and drive on the roads unless you absolutely have to.”

North Carolina cities Burlington, Greensboro and Roxboro received 8 inches or more of snow, and several inches fell in southeast Virginia, where a blizzard warning was issued for the cities along the coast.

North Carolina reported more than 250 crashes, while Virginia had more than 100. Hundreds of crashes were reported in Tennessee starting Friday. Hundreds of flights were canceled, from Atlanta to airports farther north.

At least one fatality – a man whose pickup truck went off a snow-slickened Kentucky road Thursday – has been blamed on the weather. Motorist deaths in North Carolina and Maryland as the storm blew in were investigated to see if they were caused by the weather.

Power outages had grown to about 25,000 in North Carolina alone,.

The unpredictable storm left some areas with much different outcomes than neighboring counties. Unofficial totals from the National Weather Service showed that much of Raleigh and Charlotte had 2 inches or less of precipitation – much of it sleet – while areas to the north of both cities got several inches of snow.

A blizzard warning for southeast Virginia accompanied forecasts of high winds and up to 9 inches of snow there