Winter storm packs a wallop of snow for much of East Coast
By Kelly McCleary, Holly Yan and Theresa Waldrop, CNN
Millions of people across the eastern US were digging out from heavy snow Monday after a massive storm system left its mark from Florida to Maine with tornadoes, freezing rain and snow.
Areas of Ohio got the most snowfall, with more than 2 feet reported in Ashtabula on Lake Erie. Grand Island, New York, just north of Buffalo, got 22 inches, according to the National Weather Service Eastern Region. Farther south, 20 inches were reported in Banner Elk, North Carolina.
The heavy snowfall on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in the Northeast followed widespread power outages, major road closures and myriad flight cancellations a day earlier across the Southeast.
Air travel was still snarled by the wintry conditions, with more than 1,600 US flights canceled as of Monday evening, after nearly 3,000 US flights were canceled Sunday, according to FlightAware.com.
Monday evening, nearly 50,000 customers were without power in six states from Georgia to West Virginia. Earlier, there were 217,089 customers without power in 11 states, according to PowerOutage.US.
Gusty winds are expected to linger across the Northeast through Tuesday on the backside of the storm, CNN meteorologist Haley Brink said.
“These gusty winds could also lead to some lingering lake-effect snow downwind of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario into Tuesday morning,” Brink said.
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Cold air behind the storm system and a prior arctic plunge over the Northeast will keep temperatures below freezing until Wednesday in that region, CNN meteorologist Michael Guy said.
While parts of the South and Mid-Atlantic will see temperatures recover by Tuesday, another round of bitter cold, possibly with snow, is shaping up for the end of this week, Guy said.
Drivers warned to stay home due to slick roadways
While the worst impacts of the storm shift Northeast, roads remained hazardous Monday across much of the Southeast, especially on overpasses and at higher elevations.
The governors of South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia activated members of the National Guard to help with storm response.
“They’re equipped with emergency response vehicles that can move through the snow,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Sunday of the 200 Guard members deployed in his state. “As much as 8 to 12 inches of snow has fallen in some counties, and significant icing is causing trouble in the central part of the state.”
North Carolina authorities responded to 631 crashes Sunday, State Highway Patrol spokesperson First Sgt. Christopher Knox told CNN on Monday. Two people, both 41 and from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, were killed Sunday morning on Interstate 95 in Nash County after their vehicle left the road and struck trees in the median, he said.
“Exceeding a safe speed for the conditions is the proximate cause of the collision,” Knox said. “Weather at the time was a mixture of wintry precipitation.”
In South Carolina, 120 service members were activated and many have been assisting stranded motorists, tweets from the South Carolina National Guard show.
And in Virginia, 75 service members were staged for storm response, including “personnel with chain saws for clearing fallen trees and heavy duty tactical vehicles capable of traveling through deep snow at key locations,” the Virginia National Guard said in a news release.
Virginia State Police responded to nearly 1,000 traffic crashes and disabled vehicles Sunday across the state the agency said. The incidents were “mostly vehicle damage,” and there were no reported traffic deaths, it said in a tweet.
Accidents also were reported Sunday across north Georgia, the National Weather Service office in Atlanta reported, and Gov. Brian Kemp asked residents to stay off roads.
“Potential for black ice tonight with the temperatures dropping down into the 20s, so please stay off the roads tonight and tomorrow, if at all possible. It’s going to be very treacherous in a lot of parts of our state,” Kemp said Sunday on Twitter. “Also, the potential for downed power lines is very high right now. So, the less traffic we have on the roads the easier it is for our partners to clear the roads and restore power.”
Storm spawned tornadoes in Florida
The winter storm treated some residents of the Florida Panhandle to rare snow flurries Sunday. The National Weather Service in Mobile, Alabama, tweeted a Pensacola, Florida, resident’s video of flurries at his home and traces were reported in nearby Walnut Hill.
But the system brought much more dangerous conditions to southwest Florida, where at least two tornadoes destroyed at least 28 homes in Lee County and damaged others, officials said.
At least 62 homes are currently “unlivable,” said Cecil Pendergrass, cochairman of the county’s board of commissioners, at a news conference.
One twister was an EF2 tornado with maximum winds of 118 mph. It may have completely destroyed 30 mobile homes of the 108 mobile homes damaged near Fort Myers, according to a damage survey by the National Weather Service.
Four injuries were reported, but no one was taken to a hospital, officials said.
In Charlotte County, north of Fort Myers, an EF1 tornado with winds of 110 mph left behind a path of destruction, according to the weather service.
“A waterspout moved across Gasparilla sound near Boca Grande Causeway before then moved ashore as a short-lived tornado near Placida damaging at least 35 homes and a marina storage facility,” the weather service said in a bulletin.
No one was injured, but some residents have been displaced, the Charlotte County government said in a tweet.
Correction: An earlier version of this story gave the wrong state for a city that could face icing issues. It is Charleston, West Virginia.
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CNN’s Haley Brink, Gene Norman, Chris Boyette, Claudia Dominguez, Joe Sutton and Tina Burnside contributed to this report.