WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - An expansive winter storm bore down on the U.S. East Coast on Monday, scuttling almost 1,600 flights, while tornadoes downed trees and flattened homes in the South, trapping some residents in their dwellings.
From 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cm) of snow blanketed Washington by nightfall, with less accumulation forecast for New York City. National Weather Service meteorologist Patrick Burke said the snow would turn into freezing rain and then rain amid rising temperatures.
“It could be pretty tricky for the morning commute on Tuesday,” he said.
The New York City Office of Emergency Management issued a travel advisory for Monday and Tuesday, warning residents about potentially slick roads and possible coastal flooding.
Record-breaking cold intensified by gusting winds gripped the U.S. Northeast over the Presidents Day holiday weekend. But temperatures on Tuesday were predicted to rise as high as 56 degrees Fahrenheit (13 Celsius) in New York and 53F (12C) in Washington.
On the southern edge of the cold front, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle were hit by heavy rain, hail and tornadoes.
A high school was damaged in Wesson, Mississippi, and a fire department headquarters was destroyed in Conecuh County, Alabama, the National Weather Service said.
In Escambia County, Florida, about 30 homes were damaged and that number could increase as crews assess damage in coming hours, according to Joy Tsubooka, a spokeswoman for the county emergency agency.
Two people were taken to hospital with minor injuries. “We’ve been going door to door and doing search and rescue,” Tsubooka said.
Almost 1,600 U.S. flights were canceled, mostly at Washington, North Carolina and New York-area airports, according to flight tracking website FlightAware.com.
The vast storm stretched to western parts of Pennsylvania and New York, where Buffalo was expected to get more than 12 inches of snow.
New England ski resorts, struggling through a relatively warm and snowless winter, may receive up to 5 inches of snow, meteorologist Burke said.
Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York and Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe, Dan Grebler and G Crosse