A dangerous winter storm combining high winds and ice began sweeping through parts of the US south-east early on Sunday, knocking out power, felling trees and fences and coating roads with a treacherous frigid glaze.
Tens of thousands of customers were without power in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida. More than an inch of snow fell per hour in some parts of the Carolinas, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia, according to the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center.
The storm was making air travel extremely difficult in some parts of the south. The nation’s hardest-hit airport – Charlotte Douglas international – remained open around dawn Sunday, the airport said in a weather briefing. But more than 1,000 Sunday flights in Charlotte had been cancelled – more than 80% of the airport’s Sunday schedule, according to the flight tracking service f lightaware.com. Charlotte is a major hub in the south for American Airlines.
In Atlanta, where Delta Air Lines operates its main hub, more than 300 Sunday flights had been canceled.
Conditions were expected to continue to deteriorate later Sunday, and possible ground stops were possible at airports in the Washington DC area, the Federal Aviation Administration said in its air traffic control plan for Sunday.
Parts of North Carolina were under a winter storm warning until Monday morning. Raleigh was experiencing a mix of frozen precipitation. In the Asheville area, local television footage showed snow accumulation covering the streets with white. Buncombe county closed all parks, libraries and solid waste facilities through Monday. In Boone to the north-east, Appalachian State University suspended many operations on Sunday and told all but certain essential workers to remain away from campus until at least Monday morning.
Frank Pereira, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the day would bring a “significant ice storm across portions of the central Carolinas”, including Charlotte metropolitan area.
In metro Atlanta, National Weather Service forecasters warned early Sunday that they were beginning to see a combination of freezing rain and wind gusts in parts of the metro area, which could lead to trees and power lines falling. A weather station near Atlanta’s airport recorded a 54-mph (86-km) wind gust Sunday morning, the weather service said.
By early Sunday, more than 100,000 customers were without power in Georgia but the vast majority of them were north-east of the metro Atlanta area, in the north-east Georgia mountains, according to poweroutage.US, which tracks outages nationwide. Rabun county, in Georgia’s north-east corner, was hardest hit with more than half the customers there without power. About 50,000 customers were without power in South Carolina; and 11,000 customers in North Carolina had no power.
Crews pretreated roadways in Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia but officials still urged people to stay off them unless travel was necessary. The Tennessee Highway Patrol said in a tweet that some roads in East Tennessee were snow-covered and that troopers were working several accidents due to ice.
In Greenville, South Carolina, an out-of-the-ordinary snowfall coated roads before changing to ice. Much of the state was under a winter storm warning, with winds as high as 40mph (64 kph).