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Powerful Snowstorm Makes Travel Treacherous In North Carolina

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

North Carolinians can't catch a break. The state is still recovering from two hurricanes, and now it's dealing with the effects of a powerful winter storm that hit over the weekend. Keri Brown from member station WFDD in Winston-Salem reports.

KERI BROWN, BYLINE: This massive storm is unusual for North Carolina in December. Some of the biggest problems right now are thousands of power outages and downed trees. The wintry mix has crippled traffic and caused hundreds of accidents. Those include a tractor trailer that ran off U.S. 70 into the Neuse River. Several emergency shelters are open primarily in the western part of the state. Chris Glass of Maryland came to Winston-Salem with his son and members of a youth basketball team for a local tournament on Saturday. Like many people, they thought they could beat the storm but were forced to hunker down in a nearby hotel.

CHRIS GLASS: Yeah. We were totally surprised by the weather, especially for North Carolina. You know, given our home state of Maryland, we expect weather like this. But coming to the South, we didn't know that the weather would hit North Carolina this hard. However, we're used to the weather, so we're going to make it work.

BROWN: North Carolina remains under a state of emergency. The sleet that fell overnight is making it even harder for businesses and residents to dig their way out this morning. Outside looks like a winter wonderland. Sheena Heath is the general manager with the DoubleTree hotel in Winston-Salem. The restaurant is usually closed on Sunday, but they made a special meal for guests who are riding out the storm.

SHEENA HEATH: It kind of incapacitates the city. We don't have places to go. Things aren't able to open. People aren't able to get places. So for us, a lot of businesses are shut down simply because they just can't get out. We're not equipped to take care of 12 inches of snow in less than a 12-hour time frame.

BROWN: Flights to and from cities in North Carolina and Virginia have been impacted, too, according to travel advisories from multiple major airlines. Flights in Tennessee and South Carolina have also been affected. And on Saturday, Amtrak announced it would be canceling trains and changing services through Tuesday. The National Guard is also in some North Carolina areas assisting with stranded drivers and other service calls. Governor Roy Cooper says emergency crews are working around the clock to help communities impacted by the storm.

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ROY COOPER: Our state has been tested like never before, but North Carolinians are tough and resilient. We'll get through this storm and get back to business and school, and we'll get back to rebuilding communities that were hit hard by Hurricane Florence.

BROWN: The frozen mix is expected to clear out today, but the cold temperatures will make travel tricky for a few more days. For NPR News, I'm Keri Brown in Winston-Salem.

(SOUNDBITE OF POPPY ACKROYD'S "RAIN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.