A nasty winter storm hit the eastern United States on Christmas Eve, knocking drivers off the streets and threatening to spoil the plans of vacationers and last-minute shoppers in a season already dampened by the coronavirus.
The snow and rain stretched from Atlanta to Buffalo on Thursday. Forecasters warned of a number of potential hazards – heavy snowfall, flooding, even tornadoes – from Tennessee to Maine.
The storm has already shown its ferocity, covering the Midwest on Wednesday, bringing more than eight inches of snow to Minneapolis. Snowstorm conditions delayed hundreds of flights and turned roads into dangerous white sheets.
In Nebraska, police responded to more than 250 accidents or calls for help, including one with tragic consequences: A man, woman and child were killed when their car slid into an oncoming semi-trailer truck above an average along Interstate 80; Two other children in the car were also injured.
Other locations are expected to be hit by a treacherous mix of rain and snow on Thursday. Forecasters said parts of West Virginia could get more than an inch of rain during the day and up to half a foot of snow in the evening.
“Combine that and it’s kind of a travel nightmare,” said James Zvolensky, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston, W.Va. “Things can get slippery pretty quickly.”
Gusts of up to 65 miles per hour were expected to lash through New York City from late Thursday through Christmas morning, along with heavy rain that might knock over trees and power lines. “Widespread power outages are expected,” said the National Weather Service warned.
During a pandemic holiday season when health experts have asked the public not to travel, the brutal weather could be another reason to stay home for Christmas. Before noon on Thursday Dozens of flights in the United States had been canceled.
Last weekend, despite the warnings More than a million travelers passed through airport security every day, about half as many as in the previous year.
Temperatures fell unusually low in the south on Thursday, and some cities like Knoxville, Tennessee, were preparing for their first significant Christmas snowfall in a decade. In Florida, temperatures are projected to drop more than 30 degrees as rain and wind penetrate the state.
Were tornadoes also possible in Florida, Virginia and the Carolinas, forecasters said.