100 Million in US under winter storm warnings, say weather officials

More than 100 million Americans are under some form of winter storm warning, watch, or advisory, the National Weather Service (NWS) said Wednesday, as an ice storm that crippled the Southeast headed to the Northeast and gave way to snow.

The storm has been blamed for at least six deaths — four in Texas and two in Mississippi.

Washington D.C. officials declared a snow emergency at 6:30pm Wednesday. Snow started falling in the capital around 7 p.m. and just before 8 p.m. in Baltimore, Md.

School districts throughout the region announced they would be closed Thursday. State offices in Maryland — where the NWS says some of the heaviest snow accumulation will occur — will also be closed.

As the storm moved out of the South, Kentucky State Police said snow was falling hard in the state’s southeast, and several motorists were stranded near the border with Virginia. Snow accumulation of 2-5 inches was expected, with heavier amounts more likely near the Virginia border.

Mid-Atlantic power companies braced for another round of outages from the storm, which threatens to dump up to 14 inches of snow across the Northeast. The storm had already left hundreds of thousands of businesses and homes without power in Georgia and the Carolinas.

Potomac Edison says snow isn’t as damaging as ice, but trees and branches damaged in last week’s storm could be brought down by snow.

The strong winter storm is expected to impact the Tri-state area Wednesday night, with the winter storm warning in effect from midnight until 6 a.m. Friday morning. Snow accumulations of 8-12 inches are expected, according to the NWS.

Rhode Island is preparing for 4-6 inches of snow, and the NWS has issued a winter storm watch in the state starting Thursday morning.

More than 4,000 flights were canceled Wednesday, and another 2,000 scheduled on Thursday have been canceled, according to Flightstats.com.

Ice storm slams South

Winter-weary residents in the American South woke up to ice, snow and freezing rain on Wednesday morning.

By the afternoon, tens of thousands of residents had lost power. From Texas to the Carolinas and the South’s business hub in Atlanta, roads were slick with ice. Businesses and schools were closed, and people hunkered down for the storm.

Utility provider Georgia Power reported that 130,000 customers were without electricity by 2pm Wednesday afternoon. More than 65,000 of them were in metro Atlanta, where city roads and interstates were largely desolate, as most people heeded warnings to stay home. Nearly 100,000 other customers across South Carolina were also in the dark as the winter storm moved through their state.

Criticized for their inadequate response to a winter storm in January, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed implored residents on Tuesday night to find warm shelter and keep off icy roadways.

Though Georgians had learned to stay inside and off the roads, in Raleigh, N.C., the News and Observer reported that authorities were struggling to keep up with the mounting accidents.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is warning that the storm could be worse than the ice storm in 2004 that left some people without power for a week. President Barack Obama declared an emergency in the state Wednesday night, ordering federal aid to be distributed to deal with local responses in South Carolina.

Snow, sleet and freezing rain were also expected in most of North Carolina, with the National Weather Service issuing a winter storm warning for most of the state for Wednesday and Thursday.

Up to 11 inches of snow is possible around Charlotte, with as much as 10 inches in the Greensboro and Winston-Salem areas.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said Tuesday that his goal is for the state to be “overprepared and underwhelmed by the storm.” McCrory has declared a state of emergency, freeing state resources to provide immediate assistance wherever necessary.

Mike Charbonneau, with the North Carolina Department of Transportation, told Al Jazeera on Wednesday that the agency was “as prepared as we can be for this one.”

“We’re ready to go to get the roads safe as quickly as we can,” he said. “If they don’t have to be out on the roadways … avoid getting out there, limit travel.”

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