Massive winter storm hits the Southeast, killing 4 and leaving thousands without power
Almost two thousand departing flights were canceled and hundreds of thousands of households and businesses lost power as a winter storm brought freezing rain and up to about 18 inches of snow to parts of the Southeast.
The wintry blast had covered the North Carolina cities of Saluda, in Polk and Henderson counties, and Sparta, in Alleghany County, in more than 18½ inches by late Sunday afternoon, the National Weather Service said.
Snowfall reached 18 inches in Fries, Virginia; 13 inches in Lawn, West Virginia; 12 inches in Kingsport, Tennessee; and 11.9 inches in Inman, South Carolina, the weather service said.
In York County, South Carolina, near the border with North Carolina, authorities late Saturday afternoon discovered the bodies of three men, ages 25, 29 and 37, who were believed to have died from carbon monoxide poisoning. The York County fire marshal's office deemed the deaths to be storm-related.
In Matthews, North Carolina, a southern suburb of Charlotte, the driver of a vehicle was killed and a passenger was injured when the vehicle was struck by a falling tree branch and drove out of control into the front of Matthews Church of God, Matthews police Officer Tim Aycock said.
Emergency authorities told NBC affiliate WCNC of Charlotte that two other people had suffered life-threatening injuries in some of the 75 traffic accidents attributable to the weather in the Charlotte area.
Snow started falling overnight Saturday and hadn't stopped by midday Sunday in Greensboro, North Carolina, which has been hit by a tornado and two hurricanes in the past nine months. A foot of snow was expected in the city.
Aubrey Sheldon reported for work Sunday as manager of the Green Bean coffee shop downtown, one of the few businesses that appeared to be open.
She said she couldn't make hot chocolates fast enough to keep up with customer demand.
"No one else was in the position to come in, so I volunteered to come in," said Sheldon. "We'll try to be open for at least four hours."
Ten minutes south of downtown Greensboro, Robert Leach's Ford F-150 hadn't been able to move more than a block in the previous hour.
"We never get snow like this," Leach said, "or else I would have bought the four-wheel-drive truck."
Emergency services in the city had a record 250 calls from stranded drivers from overnight into Sunday morning, city officials said.
About 1,990 departures had been canceled at airports in the region by Sunday evening, according to the flight-tracking service FlightAware. Most were in the Carolinas and Virginia.
Almost 330,000 customers remained without power Sunday night, utilities in the region reported. More than two-thirds were in the Carolinas.
In parts of Greensboro that still had power, some residents said they were taking nothing for granted.
"We tried to stay in as long as we could, but the boys had to go sledding," said Janna Civils, who took her four sons to a golf course to go sledding. "I know the power will go out. That's the next wave with this weather."
Civils' 15-year-old son, John David, said the best thing about the storm was "no school."
Officials in several states urged residents to stay off the roads and instead enjoy holiday festivities with their loved ones.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper asked drivers not to put lives of first responders needlessly at risk.
"Stay put if you can," he said. "Wrap a few presents, decorate the tree, watch some football."
Schools in Guilford County, where Greensboro is located, said schools would be closed on Monday, joining those in at least 100 other districts.
Emergency officials in Pickens County, South Carolina, also asked residents to opt for holiday cheer rather than trying to drive.
"Please enjoy a day at home watching #ChristmasMovies. Don't get out on treacherous roads," the ocunty Emergency Management Department tweeted.
The storm is forecast mostly to have dissipated by Monday, but some areas in the southern Appalachian region could still be at risk for pockets of snowfall.