North Carolina was blanketed with too much snow too soon: more than a foot in several areas — and winter had barely just arrived.
Years' worth of snowfall swept through parts of the state in a little more than a day, causing hundreds of crashes, thousands of power outages and at least three confirmed deaths, officials said Monday. Double-digit snowfall totals, some up to more than two feet, dropped in many cities and towns over the weekend, far higher than what the state normally sees this time of year.
In one county, five families were stranded while 20 inches of snow buried the area.
By Tuesday,the storm has stopped but the state — which is still recovering from the damage wrought by Hurricane Florence in the summer — is not out of the woods yet. A deadly mix of ice and rain will keep roads treacherous, and many could turn into ice rinks, Gov. Roy Cooper said at a news conference.
“Most of North Carolina has gotten through the worst of the storm, but we need to stay vigilant. … The snow and ice and the danger may not go away as quickly as they came,” Cooper (D) said Monday.
“Even the parts of our state that didn’t see a flake may feel effects from the storm today,” he said. Coastal communities are under flood warnings, and water may wash over parts of Highway 12, which connects the Outer Banks’s barrier islands.
Cooper issued a state of emergency Friday, and the deluge began Saturday.
Just after 4 p.m. Saturday, a tree fell on a moving vehicle in the Charlotte suburb of Matthews. The vehicle crashed into a nearby church. The driver died, while the passenger suffered minor injuries, police said.
In Haywood County in western North Carolina, a woman in hospice care died in her home, Cooper said. No other details were immediately available.
On Monday, a driver suffered a medical problem as he was trying to free his truck that was stuck on a highway, Cooper said. He was hospitalized and later died.
In the eastern city of Kinston, a truck drifted off the road and into a river. Divers have recovered the truck’s cab, but the driver has not been found, officials said.
In Wilkes County, five families ― about 20 people, including small children — were stranded in their homes. The families had been without power for three days and could not get out after their neighborhoods were buried in more than 20 inches of snow, said Lt. Col. Matt Devivo of the North Carolina National Guard. A team of guardsmen rescued the families, who have since been taken to a shelter.
More than 600 collisions have been reported, and 31,000 North Carolina households remain without power as of Tuesday afternoon, according to Duke Energy. About 14,000 are without power in South Carolina.
Much of the winter’s snow in North Carolina usually falls in January and February. Among the worst snowstorms on record happened in January 2000, when Raleigh was buried in more than 20 inches of snow.
The winter storm hit other parts of the Southeast, too, including South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia.