A winter storm blanketed parts of North Carolina and Virginia with snow early Saturday as its slow march across the Southeast left grocery store shelves empty and roads icy and impassible.
The National Weather Service said North Carolina cities including Winston-Salem, Greensboro and Roxboro had received six inches or more of snow overnight, while sleet and ice were making roads treacherous in Raleigh and areas southeast. Next on the storm's path was southeast Virginia, where the weather service said more than an inch had already accumulated. Some places could get a foot of snow.
Much of North Carolina is under a winter storm warning until 7 p.m. Saturday. Duke Energy reported more than 21,000 outages in the Carolinas, with many in the Charlotte area. The North Carolina Highway Patrol reported nearly 70 weather-related vehicle accidents by early Saturday and advised people to stay off the roads.
In Cornelius, north of Charlotte, Matt Thomas said he used a ruler to measure nearly 6 inches of snow and sleet that had piled up on the back of his pickup truck. He said his wife stocked up on groceries, and he planned to spend the weekend at home enjoying the snow and watching television. A plow had made a pass through his neighborhood, but the road still looked slick.
"The sleet started first, so there's definitely a layer of ice under the snow," he said by phone. "I'm staying home."
Lauren Rathbone, manager of Public Hardware in Durham, North Carolina, said the store sold out of more than 100 sleds Friday, along with bags and bags of ice melt to treat driveways and walks.
"At the beginning, it's ice melt and sleds. Closer to it when people start realizing it's going to be super cold, they'll start working on kerosene heaters, kerosene wicks ... Probably Saturday somebody's going to be out of electricity, and they'll start working on lamps," she quipped.
A blizzard warning for southeast Virginia accompanied forecasts of up to a foot of snow there. Winds in the warning area, which includes Norfolk and Virginia Beach, could reach 30 mph with gusts up to 45 mph.
In parts of New England, there are winter storm warnings from 7 a.m. Saturday through 4 a.m. Sunday, with some areas being issued blizzard warnings, WCVB-TV in Boston reports.
From Boston to Providence along I-95, anywhere between eight to 12 inches of snow could accumulate. Plymouth County, Cape Cod and the Islands could be also smacked by a foot of snow or more when all is said and done.
“Snow will be falling on average at a rate of one to two inches per hour, but there could be some localized bands where the snow is falling at a rate of three inches per hour," StormTeam 5 Meteorologist Cindy Fitzgibbon said. "“Southeastern Massachusetts is going to have the most.”
A blizzard warning is in effect for the Cape and the Islands along with Norfolk and Plymouth Counties. Fitzgibbon said the heaviest amount of snow is expected to fall from 3 p.m. until 9 p.m. Saturday.
"Ocean enhancement will impact areas of Plymouth County, Cape Cod and the islands, where over 18 inches of snow is possible," StormTeam 5 Meteorologist Kelly Ann Cicalese said.
One fatality — a man whose pickup truck went off a snow-slickened Kentucky road Thursday — has been reported. But the winter road mess caused hundreds of fender benders and other non-injury crashes, some involving school buses, on Nashville, Tennessee, roads by Friday.
Nashville's city school district ordered classes to start as scheduled Friday morning but had to hastily announce early dismissals as police reports of non-injury crashes multiplied. All students made it safely home.
"We apologize," Nashville Schools Chief Operating Officer Chris Henson said. "We realize that it's been very frustrating for everyone."
Ice forming Friday evening near sunset made driving dangerous on some Mississippi highways. State transportation officials reported ice on roads and bridges in more than half of the state's counties.
And Alabama was under a winter storm warning until Saturday morning from the wintry mix. By midday, the storm was expected to clear out, but ice would likely remain as highs would only get into the 30s. By Tuesday, temperatures are expected to reach almost balmy 50s and 60s.
One to 3 inches of snow fell across northern Georgia before tapering off Saturday morning, forecasters said. Though rain and freezing rain fell at times in Atlanta, its workers, schools and companies dismissed early Friday, avoiding the epic snowstorm traffic jam of January 2014 that stranded motorists in cars on interstates. Some took to sledding in snow-coated northern Atlanta suburbs and in Tennessee.
The storm also upended plans for inaugural celebrations for new North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, who was supposed to have an outdoor inaugural ceremony Saturday attended by thousands. He instead rushed through a 20-minute indoor oath-taking Friday before settling into his first assignment — storm preparedness.
"Consider yourselves the chosen few," Cooper jokingly told those able to attend his swearing-in Friday. Instead of Saturday's daylong ceremonies and parade, he planned to open with a morning storm briefing before addressing the state via television.
Many said they were planning to spend the weekend hunkered down at home.
"Whenever snow comes people get really excited. I'm a little excited," said Donovan Cheatham, who studies music at North Carolina Central University and plays in jazz bands. He and roommate Collin Williams said if they get snowed in, they may miss a paying gig but will jam anyway — Collins on alto saxophone and Cheatham on drums.
"Practice. We'll get a lot of practice in," Williams said.
Associated Press writers Kim Chandler in Montgomery, Alabama, and Rebecca Santana in New Orleans, Jeff Martin in Atlanta and Ben Finley in Norfolk, Virginia, contributed to this report.