A winter storm that has brought havoc to airline and highway traffic across much of the nation crawled east Sunday, pummeling the Southeast with snow and sleet.
Almost 300,000 homes and businesses were without power in North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama early Sunday. Thousands of flights were cancelled or delayed from Texas to the Carolinas.
In North Carolina, more than 1,000 flights were cancelled in and out of Charlotte Douglas International Airport alone. Parts of North Carolina could see snow measured in feet rather than inches before the storm finally rolls out to sea, a forecast that compelled Gov. Roy Cooper to declare a state of emergency.
In the western part of the state, the city of Boone already had 10 inches of snow early Sunday.
“This is a snow storm, not a snowfall – it’s serious,” Gov. Cooper said. “In the Piedmont to western parts of our state, we’re preparing for days of impact, not hours.”
Cooper warned that utility companies projected widespread power outages affecting over half a million homes and businesses. In some areas, power could be out for days, he said.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam also declared a state of emergency, urging state residents to "take all necessary precautions to ensure they are prepared" for the storm.
The storm dumped heavy rains on Los Angeles more than a week ago before slamming across the southern Plains into the Southeast, leaving a swath of power outages, delayed and canceled flights and dangerous road conditions in its wake. The Southeast was next in line before the storm was expected to move northeastward over the Atlantic Ocean, the National Weather Service said.
Asheville, N.C., is expected to bear a large brunt of the storm, with up to two feet falling around much of the region this weekend, followed by treacherous and icy conditions early next week.
Emergency officials were bringing in extra staff and cautiously monitoring whether ice accumulates under all the snow, making travel increasingly dangerous.
"If we do, that’s going to make it treacherous to get around," said Jerry VeHaun, director of Buncombe County Emergency Services, which covers Asheville. "But we're just watching the weather and making sure we’re ready to react whichever way we need to.”
The storm has already taken a heavy toll on Texas, where Lubbock was blasted with more than 9 inches of snow. Hundreds of miles to the southeast, the storm brought heavy rains and flooding to Houston. In scenes eerily reminiscent of the deadly floods following Hurricane Harvey last year, motorists across the city abandoned cars that had been submerged by high-rising floodwaters Saturday.
Six Houston-area bayous had overflowed their banks and parts of Houston and Harris County got more than 6 inches of rain over the past two days. College Station, Texas, also reported 4 inches of rain, shattering a record set in 1931, according to the National Weather Service.
Much of the wet stuff moved out of Texas by Saturday night as the storm continued moving east. High school championship and playoff football games were postponed in Arkansas, and and Christmas parades in Oklahoma and South Carolina faced a similar fate.
Appalachian Power, headquartered in Charleston, W. Va., began moving crews from Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan to areas expected to be affected by the storm. Additional crews will be ready on Monday to assist if needed.
"We continue to monitor the weather closely and will adjust plans as forecasts warrant," Appalachian Power said in a statement.
Duke Energy, an electric power company headquartered in Charlotte, estimated that half a million customers will lose service across the Carolinas. Duke Energy is bringing crews in from Florida, Kentucky, Ohio and Virginia to respond to power outages.
Contributing: USA TODAY's Jessica Guynn and Doyle Rice and The Citizen Times.