Millions under winter weather alerts as storm pummels East Coast

By Mike Hayes, Jason Kurtz and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 8:20 a.m. ET, January 17, 2022
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10:37 a.m. ET, January 16, 2022

Tornado watch issued across South Florida, including Miami

From CNN's Haley Brink

A tornado watch has been issued for areas of South Florida, including Miami, until 3 p.m. ET.

Severe storms are firing on the southern side of the system bringing winter weather across the eastern US today.

“A couple supercells just ahead of a broken squall line may persist across southwest Florida before spreading over southeast Florida into early afternoon,” according to the Storm Prediction Center. 

These supercells and line of thunderstorms to follow will be capable of producing a couple of tornadoes and damaging wind gusts of up to 65 mph. This is the same line of storms that spawned tornado warned storms and caused damage along the Gulf Coast of Florida, near Fort Myers and Naples, earlier this morning.

9:46 a.m. ET, January 16, 2022

Here are some of the areas in the Southeast experiencing freezing rain and snow so far

From CNN's Haley Brink

Snow falls along the Reedy River in Greenville, South Carolina, on January 16.
Snow falls along the Reedy River in Greenville, South Carolina, on January 16. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

Freezing rain is being reported in many locations across the North Carolina Piedmont this morning, according to the Storm Prediction Center (SPC).

Freezing rain is forecast to continue across portions of central North Carolina through the morning hours. Snow is currently falling across southeastern Virginia, this is forecast to gradually change over to freezing rain later this morning as well.

Here is a list of some preliminary freezing rain totals over the last 24 hours:

  • Fort Lawn, South Carolina: 0.18"
  • Longwood, North Carolina: 0.10"
  • Bowling Green, Kentucky: 0.03"

Further to the west, snow has been falling across the southern Appalachian mountains.

“Temperatures are currently below freezing across much of the southern Appalachian Mountains, where snow is being reported,” according to the SPC. “A few locations have exceeded one inch per hour snowfall rates.” Preliminary snowfall totals show 4 to 12 inches of snow has already fallen across some areas of the Southeast, with more snow still on the way.

Here are some preliminary snowfall totals over the last 24 hours:

  • East Flat Rock, North Carolina: 12.0”
  • Brevard, North Carolina: 10.0”
  • Hendersonville, North Carolina: 9.0”
  • Scaly, North Carolina: 8.0”
  • Greenville, South Carolina: 6.2”
  • Boiling Springs, South Carolina: 6.0”
  • Greer, South Carolina: 6.0”
  • Clarksville, Georgia: 5.6”
  • Spartanburg, South Carolina: 4.0”
  • Asheville, North Carolina: 4.0”
  • Cornelia, Georgia: 4.0”

9:40 a.m. ET, January 16, 2022

Tips to keep in mind before and during the storm

From CNN's Christina Maxouris

A powerful winter storm has threatened parts of the eastern United States with crippling freezing rain, sleet and snow, as experts urge Americans to be prepared.

Make sure you've done the basics: Learn how to keep your pipes from freezing (for example, you can open cabinets in places like under sinks to let heat in or let faucets drip), test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, have extra batteries for radios and flashlights, charge electronics and consider specific needs of everyone in your household, like medication.

These kinds of storms — and their aftermath — can cut off heat, power or communication services. Because we don't yet know how severe the impacts will be and how long they will last, and amid supply chain problems that could further compound grocery shopping struggles this weekend, have at least three days' worth of food and water for everyone in your home, says Joann Sands, a clinical assistant professor in the School of Nursing at the University of Buffalo, who trains students in disaster and emergency preparedness.

Here are some other key tips to keep in mind:

  • Have important documents readily available in case of an evacuation, including home or renter's insurance, social security cards, birth certificates and passports, Sands said.
  • Create a family communications plan on how you'll be able to get in touch if you are separated during the storm.
  • Do not bring portable generators, camp stoves and grills inside your home. Keep them at least 20 feet away from your windows, doors and vents, to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia. Here is what those could look like.
  • Plan to check on your elderly or disabled neighbors and friends.

Read more tips here.

9:33 a.m. ET, January 16, 2022

Coastal flooding is also expected

From CNN's Alanne Orjoux

Alongside the snowfall potential, strong winds from the east associated with the storm system could cause major coastal flooding of up to 3 feet above ground in some areas along the Northeast coast during high tide.

Parts of New York City, Long Island and some areas of Connecticut are under coastal flood warnings, forecasters said.

The timing of winds shifting from the east to the south will largely determine the severity of flooding, with moderate flooding potential if winds shift prior to high tide.

"Widespread moderate to locally major flooding of vulnerable areas is possible near the waterfront and shoreline, including roads, parking lots, parks, lawns, and homes and businesses with basements near the waterfront," the NWS in New York said Saturday.

Inundation could cause road closures and structural damage along the Atlantic coastline.

9:29 a.m. ET, January 16, 2022

The storm will turn northeastward to the East Coast today and Monday. Here's how much snow is expected.

From CNN's Alanne Orjoux

From the Mid-Atlantic through New England, the NWS said, "precipitation is forecast to begin as snow before changing over to ice/sleet and eventually rain with the approach of the storm center."

Some snow will fall in major metro areas, but a change to rain will hold down the accumulations. Washington could get 2-4 inches, while Philadelphia could get 1-2 inches. New York and Boston are expected to get about an inch each.

Heavier snow is expected elsewhere, with more than a foot expected in some locations.

"As is common with this storm track, the Shenandoah Valley back toward the Alleghenies will be the likely winners in terms of highest snowfall totals," NWS Baltimore said Saturday. "7 to 10 inches is possible, but over a foot is not out of the question where heavier bands form."

Snowfall intensity in the region may be heavy enough to evade significant icing, but NWS Baltimore warned untreated surfaces may still lead to dangerous travel conditions where ice accumulates.

The majority of accumulating snowfall will occur Sunday afternoon through Monday morning.

Interior cities such as Charleston, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Syracuse and Burlington, Vermont, will see the heaviest snow.

Prior to the snow event moving into the region, the Northeast will experience cold temperatures and dangerous wind chill, forecasters said.

9:26 a.m. ET, January 16, 2022

More than 220,000 customers in Southeast are now without power due to severe weather

From CNN's Roxanne Garcia

There are at least 221,461 customers across the southeastern US that are without power as of 9 a.m. ET Sunday, according to PowerOutage.US.

These are the top areas by outages:

  • Georgia: 108,493
  • Florida: 43,370
  • South Carolina: 49,702
  • Alabama: 8,846
  • North Carolina: 11,050

9:04 a.m. ET, January 16, 2022

US airlines cancel more than 2,400 flights due to winter storm

From CNN's Pete Muntean

The latest winter storm to hit the East Coast is causing airlines to cancel flights by the thousands.  

US airlines have canceled more than 2,400 flights nationwide as of 8:45 a.m. ET Sunday, according to flight tracking site FlightAware. 

Airports such as Charlotte/Douglas International have been hit particularly hard, where 90 percent of all departures have been canceled. 

"Airlines are reporting significant cancellations throughout the day," said an update on the Charlotte airport's website Sunday morning. "Passengers are encouraged to check with their airline for any cancellations or delays before coming to the airport."

American Airlines, which operates out of its major Charlotte hub, has canceled 516 flights nationwide, or 18% of its total Sunday schedule.

American, Delta, Southwest, and United have all issued travel waivers allowing customers impacted by the storm to rebook flights free of charge.

8:46 a.m. ET, January 16, 2022

Over 125,000 customers without power in Southeast due to severe weather

From CNN's Roxanne Garcia

There are 125,284 customers across the southeastern US that are without power as of 7:30aET Sunday, according to PowerOutage.US.

Here's a look at the top areas impacted by outages:

  • Georgia: 67,335
  • Florida: 27,748
  • South Carolina: 18,065
  • Alabama: 12,136

9:35 a.m. ET, January 16, 2022

More than 80 million people are under winter weather alerts Sunday morning

From CNN's Haley Brink

Over 80 million people are under winter weather alerts this morning across the eastern US, stretching from the South to New England, due to a major winter storm impacting the region.

The storm is currently impacting the Southeast states, bringing with it all facets of precipitation including rain, freezing rain, sleet, and snow. Much of the precipitation across the southern Appalachian has changed over to snow this morning and bands of heavy snow are likely to develop across this region.

“Snowfall rates could exceed one inch per hour from far northeast Georgia into the western Carolinas and far eastern Tennessee,” according to the Storm Prediction Center.

Later this morning, the storm will track north into the Mid-Atlantic bringing with it heavy snow, ice, and rain. By Sunday night into Monday, the system will shift into the Northeast and New England where precipitation is likely to start as snow before changing to heavy rain over the coastal regions and heavy snow across inland areas.