NORFOLK, Va. – A layer of ice and a blanket of snow covered coastal areas stretching from South Carolina to Virginia on Saturday after a winter weather system brought colder temperatures and precipitation not often seen in the region.
Authorities urged drivers to stay off the roads and highways, which forecasters said are slick and snow-packed in the storm's aftermath. They also warned of black ice, particularly late Saturday and early Sunday as any snow melting on roads refroze.
“People should not attempt to drive in these conditions," North Carolina Transportation Secretary Eric Boyette said.
Temperatures were frigid across several Southeast states. Meteorologists said they likely won’t rise above the 30s in Virginia and much of North Carolina during the day and will drop into the 20s and even teens in some places on Saturday night.
By about 7 a.m. Saturday, the storm had mostly blown off the Atlantic Coast, leaving as much as 6 inches (15 centimeters) of snow in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina, meteorologists said.
Further south, there was ice in parts of coastal North Carolina. Ice stretched along much of the South Carolina coast as well, although in much smaller amounts.
“There was basically a glaze reported as far south as Charleston,” said Carl Morgan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington. “We’re talking less than a 10th of an inch of freezing rain.”
The snowfall in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina mirrored the forecast of 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 centimeters), said Mike Montefusco, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wakefield, Virginia. He said Saturday's cold temperatures would keep the snow from melting at least until Sunday, when temperatures were expected to reach the 40s.
The snow prompted some restaurants along the touristy Virginia Beach oceanfront to close on Saturday. But two eateries, Commune and Prosperity Kitchen, opened their doors in the hopes that people would brave a walk from nearby residential neighborhoods.
“We've had storms like this in the past, and either we're completely dead or super busy because everyone just wants to get out in the snow and have a fun day,” said Kevin Jamison, who owns both restaurants.
Jamison said customers were already trickling in Saturday morning.
“Just to be in a nice, cozy café and getting coffee — there’s something romantic about that,” Jamison added. “And I think maybe other people are feeling the same way.”
But further south, the ice in the Carolinas caused headaches for many.
About 4,500 had lost power in coastal South Carolina on Friday night, including in Myrtle Beach. But most were back online Saturday morning, according to utility Santee Cooper.
The number of North Carolina power outages during the storm peaked at about 16,000 at 4 a.m. Saturday, and had dropped by midmorning to about 4,000, with most located in Onslow and Carteret counties, according to Gov. Roy Cooper’s office. Those outages were resolved later Saturday.
Cooper's office said North Carolina's Highway Patrol troopers had responded to more than 1,500 calls for service as of Saturday morning. There also were 945 collisions in affected areas since Friday afternoon. Cooper's office said a majority of the calls were related to vehicles sliding off roadways and becoming stuck or involved in single vehicle collisions.
More than 1,100 trucks and graders operated by the North Carolina DOT or by contractors were applying salt and sand and plowing roads.
On Friday night, a Delta Air Lines plane with 19 passengers on board skidded off the runway and rolled into mud while taxiing at North Carolina’s snowy Raleigh-Durham International Airport, according to airport officials. No injuries were reported aboard the flight from Washington, D.C. The plane was pulled from mud and the runway reopened Saturday afternoon, according to news outlets.
Earlier that day, an ambulance transporting a patient near Raleigh slid off an icy road, injuring two workers aboard, according to North Carolina’s state Highway Patrol. The patient died after the crash, but the cause of death hasn’t been confirmed.
The roads were still slippery Saturday morning in North Carolina's Morehead City, according to Josh Turbeville, who owns The Banks Grill.
Turbeville said the breakfast-and-lunch spot lost power overnight and only got it back midmorning. He had already decided on Friday to close the restaurant on Saturday.
And while closing down is a headache, he said it could be worse.
“I’d rather do it now in the offseason than in the middle of summer,” Turbeville said. "We’re all so short-staffed that a day off is not hurting anybody’s feelings."
Ryan Willis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Atlanta office, said Saturday that there was a light accumulation of snow in eastern Georgia, including the Athens area and surrounding counties.
“There were no major totals, maybe about ¼ inch of snow to about an inch in the heaviest spots,” he said.
Willis described the snow in the area as rare, but not unusual.
“It’s more of a bit of a novelty,” he said. “There’s just enough on the ground to maybe make a couple of snowballs.”
Associated Press writers Gary Robertson in Raleigh, North Carolina; Jonathan Drew in Durham, North Carolina; and Chevel Johnson in New Orleans contributed to this report.