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Millions hunker down as storm hits eastern U.S.

Combination of heavy snows, freezing rain and high winds

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WASHINGTON (AFP) — Millions of Americans hunkered down as a major winter storm hit the eastern United States (US) with heavy snow and ice knocking power out for an estimated 145,000 customers as of Sunday evening.

The National Weather Service (NWS) said the storm was bringing a miserable combination of heavy snows, freezing rain and high winds, impacting the southeast and coastal mid-Atlantic before moving up to New England and southern Canada.

Some areas along the Appalachian mountain range could see as much as one inch of snow per hour through Monday, while icy conditions could continue to develop through Tuesday, the NWS said.

In all, more than 80 million people fell under the winter weather alerts, US media reported.

By mid-day Sunday, about 235,000 customers had lost power in the southeast, including more than 150,000 in the Carolinas, according to the website PowerOutage.US, though it appeared some were coming back online by the evening.

The storm spawned damaging tornadoes in Florida and flooding in parts of the coast, while in the Carolinas and up through the Appalachians icy conditions and blustery winds raised concerns.

Transportation was seriously disrupted, with thousands of flights canceled, and a portion of busy interstate highway I-95 closed in North Carolina.

Around 3,000 flights within, into or out of the US were canceled by Sunday evening, according to the FlightAware website, and a further 4,200 were delayed.

Drivers were warned of hazardous road conditions and major travel headaches from Arkansas in the South all the way up to the Canadian border state of Maine.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp had declared a state of emergency on Friday, and snowplows were at work before noon to clear the roads.

Virginia and North Carolina have also declared states of emergency.

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