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Eastern United States digs out from big snowstorm, braces for cold

By Alex Dobuzinskis

(Reuters) - The eastern United States began digging out on Saturday from a massive storm that dumped heavy snow from Georgia to Massachusetts, knocking out power for thousands of people and causing hundreds of car crashes, officials said as they warned of more cold weather ahead.

The snowstorm also caused flight delays and cancellations across the country.

The snow began falling heavily on Friday in parts of Georgia, North and South Carolina and Virginia and lasted until mid-day on Saturday, meteorologist Andrew Orrison of the Weather Prediction Center said by phone.

Some of the heaviest snowfall, accumulating to about a foot (30 cm), was in southeast Virginia around Williamsburg and in northern North Carolina, Orrison said. Parts of northern Georgia had over six inches (15 cm) of snow, he said.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal said in a statement that thousands of power outages were reported and city officials in the Atlanta area asked residents to check on elderly people who might lack electricity.

At least one warming center in Atlanta, where people could get out of the cold, was filled to capacity, the city said on its Twitter page.

Some interstate highways were impassable overnight going into Saturday and multiple traffic collisions had been reported, Deal's statement said.

The driver of a sport utility vehicle hit a patch of ice on Interstate 75 in Monroe County, Georgia, careened off the roadway, struck a tree and was killed, the county Sheriff's Office said in a statement.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper on social media said the state had more than 700 accidents - but no fatalities - and about 20,000 power outages. The snowstorm prompted Cooper, a Democrat, to postpone his inauguration ceremony planned for Saturday.

"This was actually, for the season, the most significant winter storm the Southeast has had," Orrison said.

In Connecticut, about 20 cars and a tanker truck were mangled in a pile-up crash in the snow on Interstate 91 in Middletown, State Police said on Twitter.

At least one vehicle could be seen wedged under the tanker, in video posted online by the police agency. It added that no serious injuries resulted from the pile-up.

More than a foot of snow fell in parts of New England, Orrison said. That region had also seen heavy snow last month.

The storm interfered with many people's travel plans, with tracking service FlightAware.com reporting 3,657 flight delays and 3,458 cancellations by Saturday evening for trips around the United States, into or out of the country.

The National Weather Service warned residents of the eastern United States to prepare for cold temperatures on Sunday.

In particular, areas of North Carolina and Virginia already hit with heavy snow could see temperatures fall to the single digits Fahrenheit (about minus 15 degrees Celsius), Orrison said.

Meanwhile, rainfall from a Pacific storm lashing parts of California was expected to intensify on Sunday and potentially cause flooding and mudslides, especially in areas stripped bare by wildfires, officials said.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Dan Grebler)

 

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