Nine dead in storm-related incidents as blizzard bears down on East Coast

The powerful blizzard packing gale-force winds, heavy snow and coastal flooding across the East Coast has left at least nine dead in storm-related accidents as of late Friday.

Five of the nine deaths occurred in North Carolina. Gov. Pat McCory said one person who was injured in an accident in Wilkes County Wednesday died and another motorist was killed in a separate crash on Interstate 95 in Johnston County. A 65-year-old woman hit an “extremely icy” patch and overturned her car eventually landing in a creek and dying, according to state Highway Patrol.

In Forsyth County, a 55-year-old woman was killed when she slid on the icy road way, crossed into oncoming traffic and slammed into a pickup truck head on. A 4-year-old died Friday died after a pickup truck carrying his family spun out on Interstate 77 and crashed, State Highway Patrol Sgt. Michael Baker said. Troopers said the boy was restrained in a child seat and died as a result of the impact.

In Tennessee, a car slid off the roadway due to speed and slick road conditions, killing the driver and injuring a passenger, the Knox County sheriff’s department said. A woman was killed after the vehicle carrying her and her husband slid down a 300-foot embankment Wednesday night, Carter County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford. The woman’s husband was able to climb the embankment and call for help.

A man died in Kentucky Thursday after his car collided with a salt truck, state police said. The man was pronounced dead at the scene on state Route 92 in Whitley Country. A Virginia man died Friday after his car went off the snowy George Washington highway and slammed into a tree, Officer Leo Kosinski said.

Forecasters warn that much of the blizzard is still on its way. The heavier snow and wind gusts are expected to create blinding whiteout conditions once the storm joins up with a low pressure system off the coast, said Bruce Sullivan, a forecaster at the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

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Two feet or more of snowfall is forecast for Washington and Baltimore, and nearly as much for Philadelphia. New York City’s expected total was upped Friday to a foot or more. But Sullivan said “the winds are going to be the real problem; that’s when we’ll see possible power outages.”

The result could create snowdrifts 4 to 5 feet high, so even measuring it for records could be difficult, he said.

By evening, wet, heavy snow was falling in the capital, making downed power lines more likely, and yet many people remained on the roads, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser said. “Find a safe place and stay there,” she beseeched.

“They’re slipping and sliding all over the place,” said Kentucky State Police Trooper Lloyd Cochran — as soon as one wreck was cleared, other cars slammed into each other, causing gridlock for hours on interstate highways.

Conditions quickly became treacherous all along the path of the storm. Arkansas and Tennessee got 8 inches; Kentucky got more than a foot, and states across the Deep South grappled with icy, snow-covered roads and power outages. Two tornadoes arrived along with the snow in Mississippi.

The storm could easily cause more than $1 billion in damage, weather service director Louis Uccellini said.

More than 82 million Americans are expected to see at least one inch of snow in this storm. Around 47 million will see more than 6 inches, and 22 million will get more than a foot, Ryan Maue at WeatherBell Analytics said Friday.

About 7,600 flights were canceled Friday and Saturday — about 15 percent of the airlines’ schedules, according to the flight tracking service FlightAware. They hope to be fully back in business by Sunday afternoon.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie declared a state of emergency Friday as forecasters predict up to 2 feet of snow in some parts of the state. Coastal flooding is also a major concern for beaches from Delaware up to Long Island. Christie urged motorists to stay off roadways in light of the storm.

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Michael Rainey got his face full of snow after tubing down the hill along Broad Street in Bristol, Tennessee.

(Earl Neikirk/Bristol Herald Courier via AP)

Broadway’s shows were still going on in New York, but as snow fell in Atlanta, people there were urged to stay home all weekend, rather than risk a repeat of the city’s 2014 “icepocalypse,” when a relatively mild winter storm caused days of commuter chaos.

Travel was already impossible across a wide swath of the Ohio River valley. Nashville, Tennessee, was gridlocked by accidents. Several drivers died on icy roads in North Carolina. In Washington, Baltimore, and Delaware, archdioceses pre-emptively excused Catholics from showing up for Sunday Mass.

In Washington, the federal government closed its offices at noon, and all mass transit was shutting down through Sunday. President Barack Obama, hunkering down at the White House, was one of many who stayed home. Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina addressed anti-abortion activists at the annual March for Life as the storm closed in.

“I would come here if it were thunderstorming,” said Kristlyn Whitlock, 20, who came from Steubenville, Ohio, wearing four layers of pants and five layers of tops to stay warm.

In downtown Baltimore, social worker Sean Augustus stocked up on flashlights and water, but said his city comes together when disasters strike.

“This is when you’ll see Baltimore city in a different light,” Augustus said. “You’ll see neighbors coming together to help each other. That’s the side of Baltimore people rarely see.”

A similar spirit was evident in Annapolis, where 350 Navy midshipmen signed up to shovel people out.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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