Storm to lash Carolinas with icy roads, power outages

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(Reuters) – A winter storm bearing down on North and South Carolina on Saturday was set to glaze roads with ice and trigger widespread power outages, with the National Weather Service warning of more than a foot of snow in the region’s mountainous west.

The snow was due to strike the area on Saturday evening, with the heaviest falls expected early Sunday morning and lasting until early Monday.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, who declared a state of emergency on Friday, told residents to finish stockpiling food and avoid unnecessary travel.

“This weekend isn’t the time to head out to see the winter wonderland. Stay safe where you are,” Cooper said in a statement. “Getting out on dangerous roads could put your life at risk.”

The effects of the storm, including power outages, could last for days in North Carolina, officials said.

About 500,000 electricity customers could lose power in North Carolina and South Carolina, a Duke Energy spokeswoman said on Twitter.

North Carolina’s Mount Mitchell could receive 12-18 inches (30-46 cm) of snow, said meteorologist Jim Hayes of the federal Weather Prediction Center. Other parts of the Carolina mountains are also expected to receive heavy snowfall.

Charlotte, the most populous city in North Carolina, could be covered in 5 inches (13 cm) of snow.

The storm may affect airports including Asheville and Raleigh-Durham International in North Carolina, Lynchburg and Roanoke in Virginia and Greenville-Spartanburg International, South Carolina. American Airlines said it would waive change fees for people booked through Charlotte Douglas International, a major regional hub in North Carolina.

Some of North Carolina’s roads may disappear under ice up to a quarter of an inch (half a centimeter) thick, the National Weather Service said.

Icy roads also were expected in the upstate region of South Carolina, with the mountains of northeast Georgia also at risk for slick roads, Hayes said.

The South Carolina Emergency Management Division warned motorists to drive carefully on bridges, overpasses and remote roadways, which could freeze over quickly.

The storm, which formed off the Texas coast and is moving east, has dumped more than 5 inches (13 cm) of precipitation in Lubbock, Texas, and lashed parts of Arkansas and Tennessee with icy rain, Hayes said.

Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Richard Chang

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