A wintry mess will bring snow and possibly blizzard conditions to parts of the northern Plains and Upper Midwest starting Friday night. Meanwhile, further south, heavy rain and thunderstorms are expected. USA TODAY
Snowdrifts in North Carolina. Icy roads in Oklahoma. Submerged cars in Houston.
A heavy bout of rain and wintry weather is pummeling parts of the USA, and more severe winter weather is on its way, threatening a wide swath of the country, from the Carolinas to Texas.
The same winter storm that dumped heavy rains on Los Angeles last week is continuing to unleash heavy snows and ice this weekend as it tracks from the southern Plains into the Southeast. Widespread power outages, delayed and canceled flights and dangerous roads are expected to continue through Monday morning when the strong storm is expected to move northeastward over the Atlantic Ocean, according to the National Weather Service.
The most critical threats are the expected snow accumulations and likely travel hazards from the southern Appalachians into parts of the Carolinas and southern Virginia, according to a statement from the weather prediction center.
Governors in Virginia and North Carolina declared emergencies ahead in anticipation of the storm.
"It's certainly not unprecedented but it’s a major storm," said Dave Samuhel, a meteorologist with AccuWeather. "It's going to have a big impact."
Asheville, N.C., is expected to bear a large brunt of the storm, with up to two feet falling around much of the region this weekend, followed by treacherous and icy conditions early next week. The eastern corner of Jackson County along the Blue Ridge Parkway to Mount Pisgah should see the highest amounts of snowfall, drawing close to two feet.
In a clear sign that harsh weather may be on its way, Jim Cantore, the intrepid Weather Channel correspondent at the forefront of dangerous storms, has deployed to Boone, N.C., around 90 miles northeast of Asheville.
"I think when people wake up tomorrow morning, they're going to be staying right where they are," Cantore said in an interview with Boone Town Manager John Ward. "I think it's going to be — forgive the word — puking snow outside."
Emergency officials were bringing in extra staff and cautiously monitoring whether ice accumulates under all the snow, making travel increasingly dangerous.
"If we do, that’s going to make it treacherous to get around," said Jerry VeHaun, director of Buncombe County Emergency Services, which covers Asheville. "But we're just watching the weather and making sure we’re ready to react whichever way we need to.”
As of Saturday evening, there were 2,832 delayed and 358 canceled flights across the USA, according to FlightStats.com. Charlotte Douglas International Airports had the highest number of canceled flights with 106. George Bush International Airport in Houston reported 193 delayed flights.
American Airlines, United, Southwest, Delta and Frontier have begun waving ticket change fees for some weekend flights in anticipation for the storm.
In scenes eerily reminiscent of the deadly floods following Hurricane Harvey last year, motorists across Houston abandoned cars that had been submerged by high-rising floodwaters early Saturday. At least two cars were abandoned near downtown at the Memorial Drive overpass of Houston Avenue and more than a dozen cars stalled in high water on West Bellfort near U.S. Highway 59, according to Click2Houston.com.
Lubbock got blanketed with more than 9 inches of snow, draping much of the North Texas city in white.
"TEXANS: Be alert about weather the next few days. There could be flooding and even snow & ice depending on where you are," Gov. Greg Abbott said on Twitter Friday. "Heed local warnings and stay safe."
Six Houston-area bayous had overflowed their banks and parts of Houston and Harris County got more than 6 inches of rain over the past two days. College Station, Texas, also reported 4 inches of rain, shattering a record set in 1931, according to the National Weather Service.
As of Saturday night, there were 5,755 power outages in Texas, according to Poweroutage.us which collects and records live power outage data from utilities all over the USA.
Much of the wet stuff moved out of Texas by Saturday night as the storm continued moving east. After rolling through the Southeast, it's expected to go out to sea, not turn north up the Eastern seaboard as past storms have done, Samuhel said.
Much of Oklahoma dodged wintery precipitation as the storm took a southerly track.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency for all 77 counties ahead of the winter storm, as it was expected to dump more than half a foot of snow on parts of western and central Oklahoma was downgraded Friday. In Oklahoma City, where freezing rain and snow was expected Friday into Saturday, the winter storm watch was changed to a travel advisory.
High school championship and playoff football games were postponed in Arkansas and Christmas parades in Tulsa, Oklahoma and South Carolina. Parts of north central Arkansas could see "significant winter weather," the National Weather Service said.
Power companies in parts of Tennessee and Virginia have deployed contractors to aid in restoration efforts amid concerns over power outages in areas that receive wet snow.
Appalachian Power, headquartered in Charleston, W. Va., began moving crews from Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan to areas expected to be affected by the storm. Additional crews will be ready on Monday to assist if needed.
"We continue to monitor the weather closely and will adjust plans as forecasts warrant," Appalachian Power said in a statement.
Duke Energy, an electric power company headquartered in Charlotte, estimated that half a million customers will lose service across the Carolinas. Duke Energy is bringing crews in from Florida, Kentucky, Ohio and Virginia to respond to power outages.
Winter storm warnings are also in effect for parts of northeastern Georgia.
"We are already seeing some snow accumulations causing problems in the highest elevations in northeast Georgia," the National Weather Service said in a statement. "Expect more areas in northeast GA to transition to frozen precipitation tonight."
Contributing: USA TODAY's Jessica Guynn and Doyle Rice and The Citizen Times.
Follow Jervis on Twitter: @MrRJervis.
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