Powerful storms across the US deliver tornadoes, snow and flooding

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Florida has declared a state of emergency in dozens of counties as powerful winter storms sweep through parts of the eastern US and Canada.

More than 40 million people are under severe storm threats on Tuesday, stretching from New Mexico to Maine.

In Florida, more than 85,000 people are without power from heavy winds that have blown roofs off homes and knocked down power lines.

Officials have warned of more damage as the storms continue into the evening.

Twelve tornadoes were reported across Florida, Alabama and Georgia by Tuesday afternoon, causing significant damage and, in some areas, prompting search and rescue operations.

One motorist was reported dead in Clayton County, Georgia, officials said, after a tree fell across a highway and crushed the driver’s car.

Schools in Florida and several other states have closed or shifted to online learning, as the National Weather Service (NWS) has warned that the state is not yet in the clear. The agency said on Tuesday that:

  • Parts of Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina may see further strong tornadoes in the evening, bringing damaging wind gusts and hail
  • North Carolina residents are already feeling the impact, with more than 100,000 people without power in the state as of Tuesday afternoon
  • Heavy rain across other parts of the eastern US could bring flooding from the Florida Panhandle all the way north to southern Maine. Cities that may be affected include Atlanta, Washington DC and New York City, where 2 to 4in (5 to 10cm) of rainfall are forecast
  • Up to 1ft of snow is expected further north, from Colorado to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan
  • In Canada, a winter storm warning has stretched from southern Ontario, near Windsor, up to central Quebec, where more than 1ft of snow is also forecast

Along with Florida, New Jersey has also declared a state of emergency, where a coastal flood advisory is in effect until Wednesday.

In New York State, Governor Kathy Hochul warned the storm could be “life threatening”, especially as the expected rainfall would combine with the snow already blanketing the ground, bringing about potential flash-flooding.

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In preparation for the storm, New York City has deployed emergency responders and utility crews, and has relocated nearly 2,000 migrants over safety concerns.

“This will be an emergency, it will be serious and we’re urging all New Yorkers to exercise extreme caution at this time,” Ms Hochul said at a Monday briefing.

Severe weather has also disrupted travel in states like Kansas, where the highway patrol responded to hundreds of calls for help on Monday.

“Please stay home,” a Kansas state trooper wrote on social media. “It’s getting to the point where we will not be able to rescue you if you get stuck because we are having trouble getting around.”

The NWS said it expects the extreme weather to slightly ease going into Wednesday, though snow showers are still possible in some of the already affected areas in the central US and the northeast.

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