BY PAMELA SAMPSON and KIM CHANDLER
The Associated Press
ATLANTA – A dangerous winter storm combining high winds and ice swept across parts of the southeastern United States on Sunday, knocking out power, knocking down trees and fences and blanketing roads in treacherous, freezing icy conditions .
Tens of thousands of customers were without power in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida. Highway patrols reported hundreds of vehicle crashes and a tornado ripped through a Florida trailer park. More than 1,200 Sunday flights at Charlotte Douglas International have been canceled, more than 90% of the airport’s Sunday schedule, according to flight tracking service flightaware.com.
Winter Storm Izzy dumped up to 10 inches of snow in parts of western North Carolina as the system moved across the southeastern United States, said Weather Prediction meteorologist Brian Hurley. Center in College Park, Maryland.
First Sergeant. Christopher Knox, a spokesman for the North Carolina Highway Patrol, said that by mid-afternoon the agency had responded to 300 car crashes and nearly 800 service calls. Two people died on Sunday when their car left the road and crashed into trees in a median east of Raleigh. The driver and passenger, both 41-year-old South Carolina residents, were pronounced dead at the scene of the single-vehicle crash. Knox said investigators believed the car was traveling too fast for the conditions, described as mixed winter precipitation.
Durham Police tweeted a photo of a tractor-trailer that slid off the NC Highway 147 overpass in Durham. The cab of the truck appeared to have landed upright on the 15-501 road below, while the trailer descended upright from the bridge to the road below. Police spokesman Kammie Michael said the driver was stable with injuries that did not appear life-threatening.
The outages, which had climbed to a quarter of a million customers earlier in the day, amounted to around 130,000 customers by Sunday evening, according to poweroutage.us. North Carolina was the hardest hit, peaking at some 90,000 outages. Parts of Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, Virginia and Kentucky also lost power.
The National Weather Service confirmed that a tornado with winds of 118 mph hit southwest Florida. The weather service said the tornado was on the ground for nearly two miles with a maximum path width of 125 meters. Thirty mobile homes were destroyed and 51 sustained significant damage. Three minor injuries were reported.
Edward Murray, 81, told the Naples Daily News he was inside his mobile home on Sunday morning when a tornado picked it up and threw it over his neighbour’s house.
“It’s my house that’s turned upside down,” he told the newspaper. “The tornado knocked me off my feet, blew me toward the east wall, and buried me under the sink, refrigerator, kitchen chairs, and everything else.”
Murray and his daughter, Cokie, escaped unscathed, crawling out of the wreckage.
“I was so happy when I saw the sky,” Murray told the newspaper. “I said to the devil, ‘It’s not going to be today.'”
Virginia State Police say traffic came to a standstill on Interstate 81 in Roanoke County for several hours Sunday afternoon after a tractor-trailer jackknifed and the truck cab disconnected from trailer in northbound lanes. Two additional accidents occurred in emergency traffic, including one with minor injuries. “Please stay off the roads if possible. Beg again! Dangerous conditions,” read a tweet from VDOT’s Salem office.
At Mountain Crossings, a backpacking gear store on the Appalachian Trail near Blood Mountain in Georgia, a handful of hikers were scrambling up the mountain in the snow, employee Julia Leveille said Sunday.
“We’re open, but it’s a bit of a mess here,” she said over the phone. A tree fell along the highway about a mile south of the store and crews were working to clear it, she said.
Despite heavy snow and ice in the area, several hikers had already started hiking from Georgia to Maine, Leveille said.
“You have to really like the snow for this because you’re heading north and into higher mountains and you might see some nasty storms,” she said.
Most of the hikers who stopped on Sunday were climbing Blood Mountain on a day hike. At 4,458 feet (1,359 meters), it is the highest peak on the Georgian portion of the Appalachian Trail.
In Tennessee, there have been several reports of abandoned and wrecked cars on snowy roads.
The storm system could cause hazardous driving conditions across much of the eastern United States through Monday as wet roads freeze over in southern states and the storm turns and moves north across the mid-Atlantic states and New England.
“It’s a very expansive storm,” Hurley said. “A lot of real estate is going to get four to eight inches of snow and a lot more is going to get some of that ice buildup as well.”
New York City was expected to be spared most, if not all, of the snowfall, but coastal regions of Long Island and Connecticut were expecting gale-force conditions. Upstate New York was forecast to be hit with up to a foot of snow and high winds.
Six to 13 inches (15 to 33 centimeters) of snow was expected in parts of east-central Ohio and western Pennsylvania starting Sunday afternoon.