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By Annie Rose Ramos, Kalhan Rosenblatt and Elisha Fieldstadt
GREENSBORO, N.C. — Southeastern states were cleaning up Monday from the weekend winter storm that dropped freezing rain and more than 2 feet of snow across the region and was blamed for killing at least three people in North Carolina.
The storm began winding down on Sunday and was expected to have cleared out of the region by early Monday evening, the National Weather Service said. By midafternoon Monday, the number of customers without power had been cut by more than half, to about 155,000, utility companies reported, and canceled flight departures were below 300 after having topped 2,000 on Sunday.
The storm blanketed several communities in Virginia and North Carolina with more than a foot and a half of snow. A handful of isolated communities got much more, led by the tiny town of Busick, North Carolina, in Pisgah National Forest, which had recorded 34 inches by Monday afternoon, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration said.
In Matthews, North Carolina, a southern suburb of Charlotte, the driver of a vehicle was killed and a passenger was injured when the vehicle was struck by a falling tree branch and drove out of control into the front of a church, Matthews police officer Tim Aycock said.
A woman who was living in hospice care in her home in Haywood County in western North Carolina also died when her oxygen tank stopped working during a power failure, officials said. Another North person died in North Carolina from a heart-related condition while en route to a shelter, officials said.
Divers resumed searching Monday for a truck driver whose 18-wheeler was discovered in the Neuse River in Kinston, North Carolina, NBC affiliate WRAL of Raleigh reported.
Meanwhile, the York County, South Carolina, coroner’s office said three people who died of carbon monoxide poisoning in Rock Hill had died before the storm began. Authorities had said on Sunday that their deaths were related to the storm.
Snow started falling overnight Saturday and continued Sunday afternoon in Greensboro, North Carolina, which has been hit by a tornado and two hurricanes in the past nine months.
Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan said Monday morning that police and fire officials had responded to at least 450 stranded vehicles and more than 100 road accidents.
Aubrey Sheldon reported for work Sunday as manager of the Green Bean coffee shop downtown, one of the few businesses that appeared to be open. Sheldon said she couldn’t make hot chocolates fast enough to keep up with customer demand.
“No one else was in the position to come in, so I volunteered to come in,” Sheldon said.
In parts of Greensboro that still had power, some residents said they were taking nothing for granted.
“We tried to stay in as long as we could, but the boys had to go sledding,” said Janna Civils, who took her four sons to a golf course to go sledding. “I know the power will go out. That’s the next wave with this weather.”
Civils’ 15-year-old son, John David, said the best thing about the storm was “no school.”
Officials in several states urged residents to stay off the roads. In North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper asked drivers to allow first responders to do their jobs safely.
“Stay put if you can,” he said. “Wrap a few presents, decorate the tree, watch some football.”
Schools in Guilford County, where Greensboro is located, were closed on Monday, joining those in at least 100 other districts.
Annie Rose Ramos reported from Greensboro, North Carolina. Kalhan Rosenblatt and Elisha Fieldstadt reported from New York.
Alex Johnson and Cristian Santana contributed.