Severe late winter storm knocks out electricity and slows travel

A fast-moving winter storm brought strong winds and heavy snowfall to large parts of the eastern United States on Saturday, knocking out power to thousands and disrupting travel in dangerous conditions, officials said. meteorologists.

As the storm moved from Tennessee to Maine, placing about 16 million people under a National Weather Service winter storm warning, meteorologists warned the downpour would be followed by a cold snap and strong winds.

“It’s a pretty expansive winter storm, but it’s moving very, very quickly,” Andrew Orrison, a meteorologist in College Park, Maryland, told the service’s weather forecast center on Saturday. “So this is one of those transactions where the worst impacts will really only be for today.”

Heavy snowfall was already affecting central Appalachia on Saturday morning, Orrison said, and it would move quickly into the northern mid-Atlantic region and into the northeast during the day.

Snowfall exceeded eight inches in parts of Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia, according to preliminary weather service reports.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation asked drivers to avoid unnecessary travel and imposed speed restrictions on some roads.

Snow can fall in some places at a rate of one to two inches per hour and can combine with winds of up to 50 miles per hour, bringing “bloated, blown snow” from central Appalachia to the north -is, the weather forecast center warned on Twitter Saturday morning.

“Severely reduced visibility and whiteout conditions will at times make travel extremely dangerous,” the center said.

The center also warned that steep temperature drops were expected overnight across much of the eastern United States. In Tampa, Florida, temperatures are expected to reach 79 degrees on Saturday before dropping to 36 degrees overnight.

A line of heavy rain showers and thunderstorms was also moving east Saturday afternoon from Virginia to North Carolina, where a severe thunderstorm warning was in effect and winds gusting up to 70 mph were expected.

The weather service warned that high winds and low temperatures in the eastern United States could lead to dangerous conditions on untreated roads and contribute to power outages and damage to trees.

Nearly 53,000 people were without power in Georgia as of Saturday afternoon, according to PowerOutage.us, which aggregates data from utilities across the United States. More than 90,000 others were without power in Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Severe weather conditions also affected travel on Saturday, with more than 1,200 flights canceled within, to or from the United States on Saturday, according to FlightAware, a flight tracking service. More than 4,500 flights have been delayed.

Areas of northern Texas and southern Oklahoma received a few inches of snow Friday. Similar snow totals were reported in eastern Tennessee and parts of Kentucky Saturday morning.

Dolly Parton’s amusement park, Dollywood, in eastern Tennessee, was scheduled to open to the public for the first time this year on Saturday, but the opening was postponed due to overnight snowfall.

The northeast was most likely to bear the brunt of snow accumulations, forecasters said. Seven to 14 inches of snow could fall in Vermontand parts of northern Maine could get 12 to 18 inches.

A meteorologist said it was not unusual to see a late winter storm system in March.

“March is one of those months where there are years where we see a lot of snow and there are years where we hardly see anything,” Torry Gaucher, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Norton, Mass., said on Friday. .

“Technically, we are in weather spring,” he added. “Calendar-wise, we still have a month before spring really hits.”

Towns closer to the coast, including New York City and Boston, were to receive a mix of rain and snow, with significantly less accumulation. The Boston area could receive at least an inch of snow Saturday and Sunday morning.

This weekend’s storm follows an active winter weather pattern across much of the south and east coast this year.

In early January, back-to-back storms created treacherous driving conditions in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, including a weather system that stranded hundreds of drivers on Interstate 95 in Virginia for more than 24 hours .

In mid-January, another storm hit the south, killing at least two people and leaving thousands without power before moving north and dropping heavy snowfall on parts of the northeast and Canada.

Another January storm swept across the East Coast, causing thousands of flight cancellations and prompting the governors of New York and New Jersey to declare states of emergency.

In early February, another storm hit parts of Texas with snow and sleet, disrupting travel and power. Governor Greg Abbott called it “one of the most significant icing events we’ve had in the state of Texas in at least several decades.”

Johnny Diaz contributed report.

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