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Massive winter storm brings South-east US to a standstill

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A severe winter storm dumped snow and ice across the US South-east, resulting in disrupted flights, power outages and impassable roads.

Washington

A MAJOR winter storm unleashed its assault on the south-east United States on Sunday, as forecasters warned of treacherous travel conditions, flooding and power outages.

As snow fell from north-eastern Georgia into central North Carolina, winter storm warnings stretched to portions of Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia.

The National Weather Service said significant snowfall accumulations are expected across the southern Appalachians and the adjacent Piedmont of North Carolina and south-central Virginia, with a foot of snow or more possible through Sunday night.

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By Sunday afternoon, some cities in North Carolina had received more than 36cm of snow.

The governors of North Carolina and Virginia declared states of emergency and more than 1,700 flights were cancelled on Sunday across the United States. Nearly half a million people were reported without power in the Carolinas, Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia.

In York County, South Carolina, three men who were found unconscious and not breathing inside a home are believed to have died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Residents in North Carolina were urged to stay off the roads as the massive winter storm brought the state to a standstill. Emergency crews, including the National Guard, had worked overnight to clear crashes on major interstates.

In Virginia, state police responded to more than 140 crashes and dozens of calls for disabled vehicles across western, southern and central regions impacted by the storm.

The snow was coming down faster than the state crews could keep up with, and by midday on Sunday, the interstate 81 in Washington County became impassable.

Officials said they were concerned about freezing rain in Charlotte, North Carolina, and along the I-85 corridor and in the southern mountains. Ice accumulation was creating hazardous driving conditions and increasing the potential for more power outages.

The Washington region is expected to miss the worst of the snow, according to The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang, with forecasts predicting anywhere from a few flurries to snow showers closer to the metropolitan area. Some areas to the south, in southern Maryland and toward Fredericksburg, Virginia, could see a few centimetres of snow.

Outside the metropolitan Washington area, forecasts are for ice and snow for the interior South-east and into portions of the Mid-Atlantic states. More than 15cm of snow is possible in central and southern Virginia.

"Travel will be severely affected across much of these areas, and some power outages are likely," the National Weather Service said.

This storm is likely to have a major impact on roadways, as well as air and rail travel through the start of the work week.

As of Sunday afternoon, airports in the storm's path were experiencing reduced operations, while south of Washington, intercity rail passengers faced disruptions in service, which are expected to continue till Tuesday.

Amtrak cancelled service to areas south of Washington from Saturday to Tuesday. Some Northeast Regional trains are operating only north of Washington.

Amtrak is waiving fees for travellers and said it will accommodate customers on other trains. Airlines, including American and Delta, said travellers can change their flights without penalties for travel to and from the region for trips on Sunday and Monday. The severe weather is affecting airports in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

By Sunday afternoon, FlightAware.com reported that more than 1,650 Sunday flights had been cancelled nationwide, with many of the disruptions in North Carolina. That number was expected to rise, with hundreds of flights facing cancellations. Nearly 400 flights on Monday were pre-emptively cancelled. WP