By late morning Saturday, officials had reported almost 11 inches (28 centimeters) of snow at Lambert International Airport in St. Louis, where most flights were canceled or delayed.
St. Louis, which caught the brunt of the storm so far, recorded 9.4 inches, forcing the closure of sections of Interstates 44, 64 and 70 around the city. The National Weather Center said 17 inches of snow has fallen in central Missouri.
There are more than 40 million now under winter storm alerts, in what is the first big winter storm of the season for most areas. Missouri received 10.8 inches on January 5-6, 2014, and 12.4 inches on March 23-24, 2013.
The National Weather Service issued winter weather advisories for Missouri, as well as IL and Indiana.
Those who must travel are being urged to carry a winter storm survival kit in case of emergency.
Traffic moves along the I-70 near Lawrence, Kansas, on Friday evening ahead of the expected snow storm.
In Illinois, the weather service snow would begin in southwestern Illinois and spread northeast throughout the evening, reaching the Chicago area by Saturday morning.
Central and northern Virginia will receive even more, with up to 10 inches of snow possible in some places. Motorists found themselves stranded as snow-covered roads became impossible to pass. "The models this morning are 2 degrees colder than (Thursday), which will lead to higher amounts of snow and ice than were forecast (then)", CNN meteorologist Chad Myers says.
"In much of swath from Missouri to southern OH, this will heavy and wet and a strain to shovel", AccuWeather meteorologist Bill Deger wrote in a blog post. Cities such as Indianapolis can expect similar conditions as St. Louis, but as the storm moves east, the likely snowfall totals will be lower in major metro areas.
The storm was expected to travel along a narrow 1,500-mile-long path stretching from the Midwest to the East Coast over the weekend.
The Appalachians will pick up ice and snow in the mountains of Virginia and North Carolina, forecasters said.
Bands of icy rain are forecast for areas farther south, including parts of Virginia and SC.
There is a small chance that the southern Appalachians get enough freezing rain and sleet to turn into an ice event Saturday into Sunday.
AccuWeather meteorologist Bill Deger said in a blog post: "In much of swath from Missouri to southern OH, this will heavy and wet and a strain to shovel".
The Southeast has seen abundant precipitation in December and January, and the additional rain could put a strain on rivers already high.