Massive Winter Storm Hits The Southeast, Killing 4 and Leaving Thousands Without Power
Wide swaths of the Carolinas, Georgia, and Tennessee woke up to power outages Sunday morning as Winter Storm Diego continued to wreak havoc across the Southeast. Virginia also got affected as the day progressed.
According to PowerOutage.us, more than 12,000 had no electricity in North Carolina. Over 91,000 were cut off in South Carolina, 13,000 in northeastern Georgia and more than 16,000 in Tennessee. About 36,000 customers lost power in Virginia. At its peak, on Sunday the total number of people affected by the outage exceeded 400,000.
"Over 20 million people are under winter weather alerts, over 8 million people are under a flash flood threat, and over 9 million people are under wind advisories," CNN meteorologist Haley Brink said Sunday.
It is reported that the storm has till now claimed 4 lives. Police in Matthews, about 12 miles south of Charlotte, said a tree fell on a vehicle leading it to drive through the front lawn of a church until it hit the front of the building. The driver died while the passenger was taken to a hospital with minor injuries. Three others are reported dead.
This storm has impacted travel, both by land as well as by air. On Sunday morning, airports in the storm's path experienced reduced operations, while south of Washington, intercity rail riders faced disruptions in service.
Amtrak canceled service to places south of Washington starting Saturday and through Tuesday. Some Northeast Regional trains are operating only north of Washington. These changes will affect the Auto Train, Silver Meteor, Crescent, Carolinian, Piedmont, and Silver Star trains, among others.
Amtrak has announced that it will be waiving fees for travelers and said that it will accommodate customers on other trains. Airlines, including American and Delta, said travelers can change their flights without penalties for travel to and from the areas affected for trips on Sunday and Monday.
Data collected by FlightAware.com showed that by Sunday morning more than 1,600 Sunday flights had been canceled nationwide, with a large number of disruptions being in North Carolina. However, that number is expected to rise throughout and Monday, with the potential for many more flights being canceled.
Charlotte Douglas International Airport, the sixth busiest airport in the country, is experiencing most of the disruption. Nearly 600 flights from the airport were canceled on Sunday, and other flights that were headed to the airport have also been canceled. However, the airport said early Sunday that it was open and operational, and that airport crews continued to clear the airfield, airport roadways, overpasses and parking lots of snow and ice.
"Travelers are encouraged to frequently check with their air carrier for any cancellations or delays before coming to the Airport," the airport administration said.
American Airlines said it reduced operations at its Charlotte hub starting Saturday evening and scattered cancellations should be expected through Monday morning. Delta Air Lines predicted that the storm is expected to impact operations at seven hubs across the region.
The Richmond International Airport Even confirmed 23 cancellations. The airport administration urged travelers to check their flight statuses before heading to the airport as the number of flights canceled is expected to climb. As of 10 a.m., the airport said, "surfaces are good, all areas open, no plows or brooms required to this point."
Gov. Roy Cooper warned residents that now is "the time to hunker down" and prepare for the worst of Winter Storm Diego, which dumped more than 10 inches of snow on Texas Saturday.
“This is a snowstorm, not a snowfall. It’s serious,” Gov. Cooper said Saturday during a press conference. “In Piedmont to western parts of our state, we’re preparing for days of impact, not hours.”
North Carolina has declared a state of emergency for all its 100 counties.
By Sunday afternoon, Virginia State Police had responded to 65 traffic crashes related to the heavy snowfall. Chesterfield County police reported 18 accidents and 10 disabled vehicles, while 24 accidents were reported in Henrico County.
Police in Prince George County advised drivers to avoid commuting and warned that the roads were hazardous.
Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency on Saturday and urged residents to prepare for the possibility of a wintry mix of snow, sleet, ice and rain over parts of western, central and northern Virginia.
“Virginians should take all necessary precautions to ensure they are prepared for winter weather storm impacts,” said Northam. “I am declaring a state of emergency to ensure localities and communities have appropriate assistance and to coordinate state response to possible snow and ice accumulations, transportation issues, and potential power outages.”
Northam noted that he has asked state agencies, including the Virginia Departments of Transportation and Emergency Management, and State Police, to maintain a state of alert.
At a news conference on Sunday, Gov. Roy Cooper said part of US 70 was closed after a semitrailer truck ran off the road and into the Neuse River near Kinston early morning on Sunday.
Talking of the snowfall, Doug Bryson, the county emergency management coordinator said, “It’s been nonstop for several hours now.”
Dozens of cars were stranded along roadways, the Highway Patrol said.
More than 10 inches of snow fell on parts of Oklahoma during the weekend leading to traffic issues.
Ahead of the storm, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency for all 77 of the state's counties.