A 10-mile stretch of Interstate 90 near the New York border was closed for hours in both directions after the early afternoon accident. Several people were slightly injured, authorities said.
Among the vehicles involved were several tractor-trailers and tanker trucks. The trucks were not damaged, said Maria Finn, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.
The motorists who was killed was trapped between a box truck and a tractor-trailer hauling cars.
"It was snowy. It probably interfered with visibility a little bit, and obviously traction, but weather may have contributed to it, but can't be completely blamed for it. People also have to drive with the weather in mind," Sgt. Adam Steinheiser, a Pennsylvania State Police spokesman, told CBS Radio News.
Forecasters predicted frigid temperatures in the eastern U.S. and a break from record highs in the western Plains on Friday, with mild conditions in much of the West.
"Winter has finally arrived in the East as it'll be bitterly cold today, especially in the Northeast where the high will only be around 10 across Upstate New York and a good portion of New England," says CBS News meteorologist George Cullen. "The coastal cities will get into the upper teens and lower 20's, but at least the lake effect snow is over for now."
An inch of snow was expected on the southern shores of Lakes Erie and Ontario, more in some areas.
Boston officials were sending outreach teams into the streets to urge homeless people to stay in shelters. "People scrunched themselves up like penguins and waddled through downtown Boston" to work, reports . "Today is a reminder that this really is winter."
Snowmobile accidents in central New York state have claimed two lives and left a third person critically injured.
When it's this cold outside, everything slows down, both cars and people, reports in Buffalo.
It wasn't a good morning to wait on a station platform waiting for a commuter train.
"You gotta move around. You stay still, you're gonna freeze!" said one Long Island Rail Road commuter in New York.
"I stay warm by wearing ... lots of layers and stuff. You do what you have to do," said another.
"Grin and bear it," said a third.
In the northwestern Plains, temperatures were expected to drop, ending a record-breaking mid-winter heat wave. However, warm temperatures were expected to continue in the southern Plains and Southeast.
"Temperatures have really warmed up across the Plains with Tulsa hitting the 50's in the last few days," says Cullen. "It'll be the same story for today, with 50's from Texas to Wyoming and South Dakota. However, it'll be turning much colder once again over the weekend."
Fewer than 3,000 homes and businesses remain without electrical service two weeks after a winter storm coated power poles and transmission lines in eastern Oklahoma with ice. Most of those still not receiving light and heat were located in rural areas of northeastern Oklahoma.
The state Insurance Department said Thursday that Oklahomans had filed more than $1 million in insurance claims for damage caused by the ice storm.
Much of the West was expected to be clear and mild.
Temperatures in the Lower 48 states Thursday ranged from a low of minus 26 degrees at Saranac Lake, N.Y., to a high of 85 degrees at Pomona, Calif.