A deadly winter storm gripped the southeastern United States on Wednesday, crippling travel, grounding flights, knocking out power to 363,000 customers and encasing magnolia and palmetto trees in ice.
The weather was blamed for at least 13 deaths in the region, including three people killed when an ambulance transporting a patient skidded off an icy road in Carlsbad, Texas.
Winter storm warnings and advisories were in place from Arkansas east to much of the Atlantic coast, the National Weather Service said. The storm is expected to sock the northeastern United States in the next two days with up to 15 inches of snow.
"We definitely consider this to be a high-impact event, and we're definitely telling everyone to stay off the roads and stay inside as much as possible," said Carl Barnes, a weather service forecaster in Sterling, Virginia.
Snow and freezing rain that pummeled South Carolina and North Carolina created a dangerous commute for drivers in a hurry to get home as the snowfall got heavier and the ice thickened.
A possibly historic accumulation of ice as well as heavy snow was expected to add up to nearly 8 inches of frozen precipitation for Charlotte, North Carolina, and 9 inches were forecast for Spartanburg, South Carolina, meteorologists said.
More than an inch of ice was possible from central Georgia into South Carolina by Thursday morning, according to forecasters.
Traffic on interstate highways ground to a halt, and at least one snow plow went off a North Carolina highway into a ditch.
Todd Pekks, a chef at Duke University, was just half a mile into his drive home to Raleigh when he began to skid so badly he gave up, his wife Sherri Pekks said.
He made his way back to work on foot, and returned to the kitchen, she said.
"He's definitely gone for the night. I wonder if he'll be able to make it back tomorrow," Pekks said.
Fatal road accidents were reported in Mississippi and South Carolina. In Georgia, a man died of exposure near his home in Butts County, south of Atlanta, and North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory told CNN two people had died in weather-related incidents.