More than 200,000 customers were without power in the eastern United States on Monday morning after a major winter storm swept through the region, spurring multiple tornadoes in Florida.
The storm, which brought snow to the northern Plains and the Upper Midwest over the weekend, appeared to spur thousands of flight cancellations between Sunday and Monday.
In North Carolina, the Department of Transportation told Tar Heel State residents to stay home and off flooded and ice-slicked roads Monday.
Dreaded black ice made driving particularly treacherous near the North Carolina and Tennessee border, North Carolina Emergency Management officials said.
Storms in North Carolina appeared to play a role in the deaths of two people Sunday after a vehicle veered off Interstate 95 before striking several trees in a median.
Nearly 700 miles south in southwest Florida, multiple tornadoes were blamed for destroying more than two dozen homes and damaging others in Lee County on the Gulf Coast, while thousands of homes were left without power.
There were “multiple tornadoes” in southwest Florida on Sunday morning, the National Weather Service in Miami said.
Four people were injured, 34 homes demolished and 62 houses were rendered “unlivable” by the weekend tornadoes, Lee County Board of Commissioners Co-Chairman Cecil Pendergrass told NBC News on Monday.
The misery was brightened by one small miracle, as Fort Myers resident Edward Murray feared his dog Coco had perished as a tornado ripped his home apart.
“Coco was found safe” and the county is “working with those impacted to provide shelter,” Pendergrass said.
Pendergrass said the EF2 tornado had also left around 7,000 homes without power. By early Monday morning, just under 1,150 homes in Florida appeared to be without power, according to the online tracker PowerOutage.us.
The winter blast left more than 620,000 U.S. homes and businesses, mostly in the mid-Atlantic and the Southeast, without power at some point Sunday, according to PowerOutage.us.
By late Monday morning, about 230,000 customers across the nation were still in the dark, the utility tracking service said.
Tens of thousands of homes and businesses in Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maine and Massachusetts were still struggling with power outages just before noon Monday.
The storm also appeared to force the cancellation of thousands of flights on Sunday and Monday.
On Sunday, more than 3,000 flights to, from and within the U.S. were canceled, according to the flight tracker FlightAware.
And by noon Monday, more than 1,500 U.S. flights were canceled for the day.
A spokesperson for American Airlines said the company had canceled around 580 flights across its mainline and regional operation for Monday.
“This weekend’s winter storm has had a significant impact on our operation,” a spokesperson said. The spokesperson added that the vast majority of impacted flights were canceled in advance “so we could proactively notify and accommodate our customers and avoid last-minute disruptions at the airport.”
The spokesperson said customers whose travel plans have been impacted by the storm are able to rebook without change fees.
A spokesperson for Delta Air Lines said the company also proactively canceled around 500 flights systemwide Sunday and 75 Monday “in anticipation of winter weather impacting our operations.”
The airline said it expected to be able to resume regular operations by Monday afternoon, adding that of the flights impacted, more than 90 percent had been given new scheduled flight times within eight hours of their original flight.
The storm system further wreaked havoc on roadways, with the two people killed in the crash in Nash County, North Carolina, NBC affiliate WRAL-TV reported.
The North Carolina State Highway Patrol said the incident had unfolded just before 7:30 a.m. Sunday, with the driver traveling on I-95 southbound veering off the road and striking several trees in the median, the station reported.
Both the driver and a passenger were pronounced dead at the scene the patrol said, adding that exceeding a safe speed for the conditions was believed to be a factor in the crash.
A dramatic scene also unfolded in Durham, North Carolina, on Sunday, with pictures showing a tractor-trailer hanging off a bridge after sliding off the North Carolina Highway 147.
The driver of the vehicle was taken to hospital, but is expected to be OK, WRAL-TV reported.
Marty Homan with the North Carolina Department of Transportation said structural engineers would need to evaluate the bridge before reopening it, the station reported. The North Carolina State Highway Patrol did not immediately respond to a request for more information.
The incidents came as Gov. Roy Cooper warned drivers in the state to “stay put.”
“The best way to avoid a car accident or getting stranded is to stay put,” he said in a statement Sunday. “Fewer people on the road means fewer car crashes, plus it allows highway crews and utility workers to get faster results,” he said.
By early Monday morning, the storm system had reached the Northeast and was expected to move into southeastern Canada by Tuesday, according to the weather service.
It said the system was expected to produce heavy snow over parts of the lower Great Lakes, central Appalachians and the Northeast on Monday, with rain also expected over the coastal and inland parts of southern and northern New England.
By Tuesday morning, “scattered areas of light snow” are expected to be seen over parts of the central Appalachians, extending to higher elevations in the Northeast.
The weather service warned that “heavy snow” was also expected across parts of the Upper Mississippi Valley, near Lake Superior and across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on Tuesday into Wednesday.
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