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The big chill: 80 million Americans batten down for massive storm

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About 80 million people living in the southeastern United States are under a weather alert for the massive and powerful winter storm that has left about 240,000 people without electricity and forced airlines to cancel thousands of flights throughout the region.

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The National Weather Service predicted heavy snowfall mainly for the states of Georgia, North and South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia due to a cold front that will sweep toward the northeast and the lower portion of the Great Lakes during the course of the day, moving on into Canada by Tuesday.

The initial effects of the storm are being felt in Georgia and North Carolina, where more than 500 flights at the Charlotte International Airport have been canceled – that is, 91 per cent of the scheduled flights – according to the specialised FlightAware Web site.

In all, according to that website, more than 2600 flights have been canceled and hundreds more have been delayed around the country, many of which were to depart or arrive at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the most heavily used air hub in the US for passenger traffic and where on Sunday about 27 per cent of air operations have been canceled.

As the NWS has forecast, the big winter storm has had a “significant impact” on travel in the eastern US on Sunday and Monday, where the heaviest snowfall is predicted along the Appalachian Mountains and freezes are anticipated in the Carolinas.

The storm has also affected the electricity supply in the region, according to the PowerOutage website, which reports on power blackouts in the US.

In Georgia, more than 93,000 customers are without electricity, with a similar situation being suffered by some 89,000 customers in South Carolina, 26,000 in North Carolina and another 33,000 in Florida.

Specifically, the governors of Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia had already declared emergencies in anticipation of the storm’s arrival to facilitate the deployment of resources.

Farther south, in Florida, the NWS on Sunday issued advisories for potential tornadoes in the central, eastern and southern parts of the peninsula.

South Florida, including Miami, is under a tornado alert until mid-afternoon on Sunday while in the central portion of the state local media outlets reported that a twister was detected in the Orlando metro zone.

This low pressure front is not only threatening to dump large amounts of snow and bring low temperatures to the region, but also to bring copious amounts of rain and heavy winds throughout the southeastern US.

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