A massive snowstorm has brought snow, sleet and freezing rain across the southern United States, killing one person and causing dangerously icy roads, record snowfall and power losses to hundreds of thousands of people.
Five members of a dive team searched the Neuse River in Kinston, North Carolina, for a missing truck driver on Sunday after a tractor-trailer ran off a road and into the river, WRAL-TV reported . Police just outside of Charlotte said a driver died when a tree fell on a moving vehicle.
Governors and local officials in several states declared emergencies ahead of the storm crossing several southern states, which hit portions of North Carolina and Virginia particularly hard. Meanwhile, more than 300,000 power outages were reported across the region with the majority of those — about 240,000 — in North Carolina, according to PowerOutage.US, a side monitoring major power outages across the country. Parts of Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia also saw outages.
Snowfall accumulations were expected to continue rising across mountainous regions in the Carolinas Monday afternoon, with the National Weather Service warning it would continue to be “a dangerous system”.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper strongly urged residents to stay off the roads Sunday, asking drivers not to put lives of first responders needlessly at risk. Mr Cooper said emergency crews, including the National Guard, worked overnight to clear traffic accidents on major roadways.
“We’re preparing for days of impact, not hours,” the governor said, urging caution. “This weekend isn’t the time to head out to see the winter wonderland. Stay safe where you are. Getting out on dangerous roads could put your life at risk.”
Officials warned residents to prepare emergency kits and stay off roads in impacted areas. Several schools districts in North Carolina and Virginia announced they’ll be closed Monday.
“Virginians should take all necessary precautions to ensure they are prepared for winter weather storm impacts,” said Virginia Governor Ralph Northam.
The National Weather Service said a “prolonged period of snow” began late Saturday and would last until Monday in the region, with the heaviest snow expected in northwest North Carolina and southern Virginia. Some areas of North Carolina and Virginia saw more than a foot (30 centimetres) of snow by Sunday afternoon.
Virginia State Police said Interstate 81 in far southwest Virginia was particularly dangerous, with snow coming down faster Sunday afternoon than crews could clear it. Police said several tractor-trailers slid off the highway.
Nearly 60 crashes had been reported across Virginia by Sunday afternoon, according to BBC.
Charlotte Douglas International Airport, the sixth busiest airport in the country, said American Airlines reduced its operations, with more than 1,000 flights cancelled on Sunday.
American Airlines also issued a travel alert for nine airports throughout the Carolinas, Tennessee, and Virginia, meaning passengers may be able to change travel plans without a fee.
Travellers were advised to check their flight status before heading to the airport throughout the weekend and into Monday. Cancellations were reported on flights from as far as the Midwest.
Amtrak also cancelled or modified some routes because of the storm, and many hardware stores sold out of ice melt.
Reporting contributed by AP
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