The eastern United States was under a weather siege Sunday as a furious winter storm packing heavy snow, ice, gale-force winds and tornadoes rolled out of the Midwest and continued its unforgiving march across the nation.
Tens of thousands of customers were without power in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida. Highway patrols reported hundreds of vehicle accidents, and a tornado ripped through a trailer park in Florida. More than 1,200 Sunday flights at Charlotte Douglas International were cancelled – more than 90% of the airport’s Sunday schedule, according to the tracking website flightaware.com.
The impact of the storm varied greatly from neighborhood to neighborhood. Jackson, Mississippi, saw trace amounts of snow early Sunday while 25 miles to the northeast, the hamlet of Goshen Springs was blasted by more than 8 inches.
Southern cities were on alert. Nashville could get 3 inches of snow, other parts of Tennessee a foot of snow. A tractor-trailer crash near the Tennessee River closed I-40 eastbound in Humphreys County. The Tennessee Highway Patrol reported a backup stretching several miles.
The streets of Charlotte, North Carolina, were covered early Sunday, and the National Weather Service called for snow accumulations of 2 to 7 inches in parts of the state.
"Power outages and tree damage are likely due to the ice," the weather service warned. "Travel could be nearly impossible."
Thundersnow was reported near Waynesville, North Carolina. Accuweather said a strike of lightning was detected during heavy snowfall. Thundersnow is unusual but can happen in strong snowstorms, Accuweather said. Some of the state was blanketed in a foot of snow.
First Sgt. Christopher Knox, a spokesman for the North Carolina Highway Patrol, said that by midafternoon, the agency had responded to 300 car crashes and nearly 800 calls for service.
Two people died Sunday when their car drove off the road and into trees in a median east of Raleigh, North Carolina.
The driver and passenger, both 41-year-old South Carolina residents, were pronounced dead at the scene of the single-vehicle crash. Knox said investigators believe the car was driving too fast for the conditions, described as mixed winter precipitation.
Elsewhere, 1 to 4 inches of sleet, snow and ice was forecast for the Atlanta area as well as other parts of Georgia and South Carolina.
“Hopefully, the storm will underdeliver, but it could overdeliver. We just don’t know,” said Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who declared a state of emergency.
A tornado with 118 mph winds touched down in southwest Florida on Sunday and traveled almost two miles, the National Weather Service confirmed.
Lee County Commission Chairman Cecil Pendergrass said 62 homes in the tornado’s path were suffered major damage to the point where they were unlivable. Three minor injuries were reported.
Edward Murray, 81, was in his mobile home at Windcrest and Point Breeze in Cottage Point Trailer Park on Sunday morning when a tornado picked up the structure and tossed it on top of a neighbor's home.
"That’s my house that’s turned upside down," he said. “The tornado took me off my feet blew me toward the east wall and buried me under the sink, refrigerator, kitchen chairs and everything else.”
The storm, dubbed a "Saskatchewan screamer" because it originated in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, left more than a foot of snow in Des Moines, Iowa, over the weekend. The Ozarks town of Canaan in Arkansas saw a foot of snow.
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The storm headed into the Northeast, dropping snow, sleet and rain around the densely populated Eastern Seaboard. Washington was forecast to see up to 3 inches of snow followed by a round of ice. Parts of the metro area already saw more snow in one week this month than in the past two years.
Parts of Western Pennsylvania could get a foot of snow, forecasters said. Officials across New England warned residents to stay indoors Saturday as a blast of Arctic air drives wind chill temperatures as low as minus 35 degrees.
Contributing: The Associated Press, Naples Daily News
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Dangerous winter storm punches South with heavy snow and tornadoes