DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Snowed-in Southerners made the best of a day without work or school Monday while officials warned that roads remained treacherous after a wintry storm dropped snow, sleet and freezing rain across five states.
Accidents on snow-covered interstates caused major delays over the weekend. Hundreds of flights were canceled and drivers in North Carolina and Virginia got stuck in snow or lost control on icy patches. The storm was blamed for at least three deaths in North Carolina.
But the commuters’ nightmare provided pre-winter thrills for kids and the young at heart, who were able to go sledding and build snowmen in places that don’t often see so much of the white stuff. Scores of schools canceled class and many businesses and government offices — including Virginia’s executive-branch agencies in Richmond — were closed.
In North Carolina’s Durham County, where a foot (.3 meters) fell in places Sunday, kids reveled in a day off from school as a second dusting of snow and sleet fell Monday morning. Children sledded, threw snowballs or built snowmen, and a young girl in a pink jacket threw her hands up and yelled “Merry Christmas!” at a passer-by along a residential sidewalk.
A few cars passed on the road, but several people decided it was safer to get where they were going by foot.
Andrew Dedman, 16, was walking about a mile (1.6 kilometers) through a flurry to visit a friend on their day off from high school.
“We’re just going to hang out, sit around, drink hot chocolate,” he said.
Others ventured Monday into ankle-deep snowdrifts to walk dogs. Ron Gordon, 75, donned boots and a hooded winter jacket to take out his dog, Easy.
“She seems to like it,” he said, holding a walking stick for extra traction. “She enjoys it more than I do.”
The semi-retired photographer said he could work inside for the rest of the day, and he can cook on the gas stove even if the house loses power again, as it did for several hours Sunday. He said he moved to Durham from Chicago several years ago and was surprised to see this much snow: “I didn’t expect this.”
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Monday that the worst of the storm had passed, but residents — particularly motorists — should keep watch for dangerous conditions. Melting snow and ice could result in slick road conditions Tuesday morning as temperatures fall and moisture refreezes, Cooper said at a news conference. The Highway Patrol already had responded to more than 670 collisions and nearly 1,600 calls for services since the storm began.
Cooper said snow accumulations totaled as high as more than 20 inches (50 centimeters) in some areas of the western part of the state.
A truck driver died Sunday after suffering what appeared to be a heart attack from shoveling out his rig that got stuck at the height of the storm along Interstate 77 in the central part of the state, Yadkin County Emergency Services Director Keith Vestal said.
The state emergency operations center also said one man died Sunday when a tree fell on him in Mecklenburg County, while an ailing woman died in Haywood County when her oxygen was cut off due to power outages.
Governors and local officials declared emergencies ahead of the storm crossing several Southern states, which hit portions of North Carolina and Virginia particularly hard.
Flight cancellations and delays continued Monday at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, the sixth busiest airport in the country. The airport had nearly 400 cancellations, about one-fourth of its scheduled flights.
More than 244,000 power outages were reported across the region Monday morning, with North Carolina bearing the brunt of it, according to poweroutage.us. South Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee also had outages reported Monday.