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Northeast braces for storm after heavy snow in the South

Plows worked on Interstate 581 at the Liberty Road NW overpass during the snowstorm Sunday in Roanoke, Va.SCOTT P. YATES, The Roanoke Times/Associated Press

A strong winter storm brought heavy snow to parts of the Southeast on Sunday and was expected to leave about 1 foot of snow in parts of the Northeast, knocking out power to tens of thousands of customers as dangerous ice coated highways in the Carolinas.

In the South, where some governors declared states of emergency Friday, areas such as central Mississippi and central North Carolina had already received more than 9 inches of snow, while portions of Alabama and Tennessee had a mixture of snow and freezing rain, the National Weather Service said.

“This storm is going to be pretty significant in terms of generating travel impacts, outages, and things of that nature,” said Rich Otto, a meteorologist with the weather service.

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In Georgia, about 46,000 customers were without power Sunday afternoon, according to PowerOutage.us, which aggregates data from utilities across the United States. South Carolina had nearly 78,000 customers without power, and North Carolina had about 86,000.

More than a quarter-inch of ice was expected to accumulate in the Piedmont regions of the Carolinas on Sunday.

Forecasters said the storm system could bring more than 1 foot of snow to some areas, including parts of the Appalachians and upstate New York. Parts of the upper Midwest and northwest Pennsylvania could get up to 2 feet of snow, Otto said.

Governor Roy Cooper of North Carolina warned residents at a news conference Sunday to stay off the roads because parts of the state had received up to 1 foot of snow.

“For today, the best way to avoid a car accident or getting stranded is to stay put,” he said.

As of Sunday morning, there were already 200 reports of crashes as a result of the storm, said Colonel Freddy Johnson Jr., commander of the State Highway Patrol.

“Travel is treacherous across much of our state,” Johnson said.

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North Carolina officials said on Twitter that “many North Carolinians could be without power in extremely low temperatures” on Sunday. Cooper said several counties were opening warming shelters.

The storm system also spawned at least one tornado in southwestern Florida on Sunday morning, the Weather Service said. There were no reports of injuries or deaths, local officials said, but there was widespread damage, especially to mobile home parks in the Iona McGregor area of Fort Myers, Fla., officials said. About 200 people were displaced.

Rodney Wynn, a meteorologist with the Weather Service in Tampa, Fla., said it is common for winter storm systems to cause “severe weather outbreaks” in the South.

As the storm moved toward the Northeast on Sunday afternoon, it was expected to remain inland, meaning cities closer to the coast, from Washington to Boston, will primarily receive heavy rain, Otto said.

Significant flooding was possible in parts of eastern Long Island, N.Y., and coastal New England on Sunday night and into Monday morning, he said.

Ben Gelber, a meteorologist at WCMH-TV in Columbus, Ohio, said Saturday that “more people will be impacted by this storm than any winter storm we’ve had this season.”

By Sunday morning, more than 1,000 flights had been canceled in the affected states, according to FlightAware.com, which tracks delays and cancellations across the country.

Elsewhere in the South, northeastern Georgia and the Carolinas were expected to bear the brunt of freezing precipitation Sunday, meteorologists said.

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In Georgia, the Department of Public Safety reported several examples of drivers losing control on icy roadways, and officials said that road conditions would worsen through the day as strong wind gusts battered the state, hindering efforts to clear the highways.

Crews in South Carolina and Mississippi were also working Sunday morning to clear highways. Videos shared by the states’ transportation departments showed highways that were covered by snow and almost entirely clear of vehicles.

On Friday, Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia and Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia joined Cooper by declaring states of emergency.

Virginia transportation officials were caught off guard this month when a storm stranded hundreds of drivers on Interstate 95 south of Washington.

Governor Kathy Hochul of New York said at a news conference Sunday that snow could fall in parts of upstate New York at a rate of 3 inches an hour Sunday evening.

“Overnight is going to be very unpredictable,” she said, “and with the darkness and ice on the roads and high winds, this could be a very dangerous situation.”