By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A late winter storm pummeled the eastern United States on Thursday ahead of a cold front, canceling almost 5,000 flights as Kentucky dug out from up to 23 inches (58 cm) of snow that had stranded hundreds of drivers.

Winter storm warnings and advisories were in place from the Middle Atlantic states into southern New England, as well as from the lower Mississippi Valley to the southern Appalachians, the National Weather Service said.

Up to 4 more inches (10 more cm) of snow are possible across the northern Middle Atlantic area late on Thursday before the storm tapers off, the weather service said.

A Delta Air Lines <DAL.N> plane arriving in heavy snow at New York's LaGuardia Airport from Atlanta slid off the runway into a fence. No serious injuries were reported.

In Kentucky, Governor Steve Beshear declared a state of emergency as traffic halted on interstate highways, leaving hundreds of motorists stranded overnight.

About 30 miles (37 km) of Interstate 65 near Elizabethtown had been shut down, but he told CNN that some traffic was beginning to move.

"It is moving again, thank goodness," Beshear said.

Traffic on Interstate 24 near Paducah was also starting to move slowly, but as temperatures fell after nightfall icing was again a problem, transportation officials said.

Cancellations were announced for hundreds of school districts, government offices and legislatures in the District of Columbia, New Jersey, South Carolina and Tennessee.

In Washington, federal offices and Congress shut down, and sledders ignored a police ban to stage a "sled-in" on Capitol Hill. "We're out here sledding for America," sledder Mai Fernandez told Reuters Television,

Slick travel conditions were reported throughout the Ohio River Valley and surrounding states, and one person was killed in a vehicle crash in Dickson County, Tennessee.

In Dallas, a man who was outdoors photographing the snowfall was shot to death, but there were no arrests and no known motive, police said.

A total of 4,858 U.S. flights were canceled, according to FlightAware.com. Airports in Dallas, Washington, Philadelphia and the New York metropolitan area were hardest hit.

Parts of Massachusetts got up to 12 inches (19 cm) of snow, but there was no official word on whether Boston had broken its annual snowfall record. Two inches (5 cm) would break the city's record annual total of nearly 108 inches (274 cm) set in 1995-96.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner and Barbara Goldberg; Additional reporting by Tim Ryan and Ian Simpson in Washington, Tim; Steve Barnes in Little Rock, Arkansas; and Steve Bittenbender in Louisville, Kentucky; Editing by Kevin Liffey, Lisa Von Ahn and Ken Wills)