LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — More than 300,000 homes and businesses were without power early Friday as a weather system blamed for five deaths in the South moved into the northeastern United States.
The outages matched states that were under high wind and winter weather advisories issued by the National Weather Service.
Forecasters warned that the storm system could bring gusts of up to 60 mph (97 kph) into New England. Falling trees damaged homes and power lines, cutting electricity in places around the region as the weather blew through. North and South Carolina and Virginia had the most customers without electricity on Friday, according to poweroutages.us.
Tornadoes may have touched down near the nation’s capital on Friday. National Weather Service meteorologist Isha Renta told The Associated Press that investigators are reviewing radar data and assessing damage in Virginia’s Loudoun County as well as the Maryland counties of Carroll, Frederick and Montgomery to confirm this.
As much as 4 inches (10 centimeters) of snow fell overnight in Ohio, part of a band of snowy weather stretching from Tennessee to Maine. Blowing snow contributed to several accidents in the Akron area, and the Ohio Department of Transportation urged people to make room for nearly 1,300 state crews working to improve the icy conditions.
Earlier, the weather system destroyed mobile homes in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, caused mudslides in Tennessee and Kentucky and flooded communities that shoulder waterways across the Appalachian region, where the weather service warned of a continuing risk of flooding.
The Tennessee Valley Authority warned that people residing near rivers and lakes should prepare for rapidly changing water levels. The TVA is managing rising water behind 49 dams to avert major flooding, but with more rain expected next week, the agency may have to release water downstream, said James Everett, senior manager of the TVA’s river forecast center in Knoxville, Tennessee.
School districts canceled classes in state after state as bad weather rolled through.
Up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) of snow was predicted in West Virginia, and in Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency because of heavy rains and extreme flooding. More than 500 people in southwestern Virginia had to be rescued from their homes as the waters rose, he said Thursday night.
Tornadoes caused caused minor damage in the Tampa Bay, Florida, area, where a tree was blown onto a mobile home, trapping an elderly woman who was later hospitalized, and a crane topped over at an interstate construction site on I-275.
Authorities confirmed five storm-related fatalities, in Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee.
One person was killed and another was injured as high winds destroyed two mobile homes near the town of Demopolis, Alabama, the Storm Prediction Center reported. The victim, Anita Rembert, was in one of the homes with her husband, child and two grandchildren, said Kevin McKinney, emergency management director for Marengo County. A man was injured but the children were unhurt, he said.
High winds there left roadsides strewn with plywood, insulation, broken trees and twisted metal. The National Weather Service was checking the site for signs of a tornado.
At least four people died in vehicles that were hit by falling trees or lost control in rain-slicked roads or floods. Authorities pleaded with motorists to avoid driving where they couldn’t see the pavement.
A driver died in South Carolina when a tree fell on an SUV near Fort Mill, Highway Patrol Master Trooper Gary Miller said. The driver’s name wasn’t immediately released.
In North Carolina’s Gaston County, Terry Roger Fisher was killed after his pickup truck hydroplaned in heavy rain, plunged down a 25-foot (8-meter) embankment and overturned in a creek, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol said, according to news outlets.
An unidentified man died and two others were injured Thursday when a car hydroplaned in Knoxville, Tennessee, and hit a truck, police said in a news release.
And in Tennessee, 36-year-old teacher Brooke Sampson was killed and four people were injured when a rain-soaked tree fell on a van carrying Sevierville city employees, officials said. The crash, though still under investigation, appeared to have been weather-related according to preliminary information, said Tennessee Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Bill Miller.
Flooding, meanwhile, forced rescuers to suspend their search for a vehicle missing with a person inside it in north Alabama’s Buck’s Pocket State Park. The vehicle quickly disappeared Wednesday in waters too dangerous for divers to search.
“As the car started shifting because of the water we noticed what appeared to be an arm reaching out,” witness Kirkland Follis, who called 911, told WHNT-TV.
Associated Press staffers Ben Finley in Norfolk, Va.; Tamara Lush in Tampa, Fla.; Adrian Sainz in Memphis, Tennessee; John Raby in Charleston, West Virginia; and Andrew Welsh-Huggins in Columbus, Ohio; contributed to this report.