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Winter Storm Diego Leaves More than 200,000 Without Power Across Southeast
Published: December 9, 2018
This article is no longer being updated. Please click here to get the latest updates on the effects of Winter Storm Diego.
Wide swaths of the Carolinas and parts of Georgia woke up to power outages Sunday morning as Winter Storm Diego continued to dump snow and ice across the Southeast.
Nearly 110,000 customers had no electricity in North Carolina, according to poweroutage.us. More than 78,000 were in the dark in South Carolina and 26,000 in northeast Georgia.
Interstate 26 was closed overnight in both directions at the steep Saluda Grade after several semitractor trailers got stuck in the roadway, North Carolina's Department of Transportation said. The interstate reopened about 5:30 a.m.
State and county roads were iced or snowed over in much of North Carolina.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper had warned residents that now is "the time to hunker down" and prepare for the worst of Winter Storm Diego, which dumped more than 10 inches of snow on Texas Saturday.
“This is a snowstorm, not a snow fall. It’s serious,” Gov. Cooper said Saturday during a press conference. “In the Piedmont to western parts of our state, we’re preparing for days of impact, not hours.”
Cooper's warning comes a day after he declared a state of emergency for all of North Carolina's 100 counties. States of emergency have also been declared in Virginia and Oklahoma.
“This weekend isn’t the time to head out to see the winter wonderland. Stay safe where you are,” Cooper added during the press conference. “Getting out on dangerous roads could put your life at risk. It also gets in the way of first responders and road crews who’ll be hard at work trying to keep us safe and clear our roads.”
At an earlier news conference, the governor said he had activated the National Guard to help as needed and advised to avoid unnecessary travel.
"The more cars we have on the road, the tougher it will be for our DOT crews to treat and clear those roadways," Cooper said. "If you absolutely must travel, clear your car of snow and ice before you drive, slow down and leave room between you and other vehicles."
Winter storm Diego dumped at least 10.5 inches of snow on Lubbock, Texas, making it the 2nd snowiest December day on record in the Panhandle city. The heavy snow contributed to some slide-offs and traffic issues, but the Lubbock Police Department said that "there were fewer traffic problems than expected."
But the National Weather Service warned that the snow would refreeze overnight, leading to treacherous icy conditions on Sunday.
Department of Transportation crews are spreading salt and sand on roadways and are prepared to spread a salt-water brine mixture that can keep bridges and interstates from icing over.
Duke Energy crews are preparing for the worst by checking on supplies and equipment. They say they are ready to call in crews from out-of-state if needed.
Dale Epperson, owner of Epperson's Tree Service in Flat Rock, North Carolina, told WLOS he and his crews have been going nonstop filling orders for firewood.
"Anytime the weather service puts out a warning like this, my phone starts ringing," Epperson said. "I'm getting 15-20 phone calls a day. Everyone is asking about prices and just wondering when I can bring it."
Officials in Hendersonville, North Carolina, said a state of emergency would take effect at midnight Friday. In a Facebook post, the city said the declaration will allow city departments to take the necessary actions to prepare public infrastructure and facilities for the effects of the winter storm.
Asheville city officials said 32 trucks were standing by to plow roads and spread salt. The city said it has 4,000 pounds of salt and crews began pretreating roads on Friday.
The University of North Carolina Asheville canceled on-campus exams scheduled for Monday.
The women's basketball game between No. 22 South Carolina and Duke that was scheduled for Sunday has been postponed, the Associated Press reports.
WGHP reported empty bread shelves in a Food Lion grocery store in High Point, North Carolina.
"I’m going grocery shopping making sure I have all of my items just in case the power goes out," Casondra McKay told the TV station.
Other state officials were also busy making final preparations for the coming storm on Friday:
Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency Saturday and urged residents to prepare for the possibility of a wintry mix of snow, sleet, ice and rain over parts of western, central and northern Virginia.
“Virginians should take all necessary precautions to ensure they are prepared for winter weather storm impacts,” said Northam. “I am declaring a state of emergency to ensure localities and communities have appropriate assistance and to coordinate state response to possible snow and ice accumulations, transportation issues, and potential power outages.”
Northam noted that he has placed state agencies, including the Virginia Departments of Transportation and Emergency Management, and State Police, on alert.
More than 10 inches of snow fell on parts of Oklahoma overnight, leading to limited traffic issues.
Ahead of the storm, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency for all 77 of the state's counties.
Schools in Bentonville canceled all athletic and extra-curricular events scheduled for Saturday because of the possibility of icy conditions.
The Bentonville Christmas Parade, which was also scheduled for Saturday, has been moved to Dec. 15, KFSM-TV reported.
The station also said Fayetteville School District said the basketball tournament games scheduled for Saturday have been canceled.
The state's high school football championships scheduled for Saturday in Columbia were moved up to Friday because of the threat of bad weather, the State reported.
"This storm could be historic for some areas, but we’re not sure what areas yet. Any time you’re talking about a portion of our area outside the mountains seeing a foot of snow, that’s a once-in-a-generation event," Trisha Palmer of the National Weather Service told the Greenville News.
Before pushing east, heavy snow from Diego closed a stretch of Interstate 5 between Los Angeles and the San Joaquin Valley Thursday near the Tejon Pass, Caltrans tweeted.
The transportation department said cars were sliding on the roadways near the Lebec and Grapevine areas. I-5 is the main route between Southern and Northern California, and the shutdown was expected to cause backups for miles. Southbound lanes were reopened about 1:45 p.m., but the northbound lanes remained closed until after 3 p.m. because semitrailer trucks blocked the road near Castaic, Caltrans said.
Vehicles traveling on portions of Highway 18 and Highway 38 in the San Bernardino Mountains were required to have chains, Redlands Daily Facts reported.
Diego is forecast to bring snow, sleet and freezing rain from the southern Plains to the Ozarks and the Southeast late this week into early next week.
The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.