Wintry weather hits Kentucky

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A major storm moving up the Atlantic Coast on the last shopping weekend before Christmas threatened to shut down much of the region as officials warned of the potential for up to 20 inches of snow and significant power outages.

People stocked up on staples as the National Weather Service issued winter storm warnings from the Carolinas to New Jersey.

In Virginia, Gov. Tim Kaine declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the storm, placing the National Guard and other agencies on standby.

Forecasters expected up to 20 inches of snow through late Saturday in the Washington metro area and the mountains of southern West Virginia and southwest Virginia. They said it could be the most snow in the nation's capital since a February 2003 storm dumped nearly 27 inches at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Up to a foot of snow was forecast in parts of Tennessee, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Appalachian Power, which serves 1 million customers in Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia, warned of the potential for an extended power outage if wet, heavy snow falls.

The storm came from the Gulf and drenched South Florida with rain starting late Thursday, leaving flooded homes and stranded drivers.

Jim Weintraub, owner of Ace Hardware in Asheville, N.C., where a foot or more of snow was expected, said he picked up 1,500 pounds of rock salt Friday morning. An hour-and-a-half later, "I'm just about out," he said.

But customers were thinking fun, too.

"I've been told we're the only store around with sleds," Weintraub said. "As I was driving back up to the store, my wife was calling me and saying, 'Where are you? People are waiting for sleds!'"

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for much of Eastern Kentucky with heavy snow possible this weekend, and wintry weather was also predicted for Central Kentucky.

In Eastern Kentucky, 1 to 3 more inches was possible Saturday after 3 to 5 inches of snow Friday night; flurries were also possible Sunday and Monday morning, according to the National Weather Service.

For Central Kentucky, the weather service predicted about two inches of snow Saturday to go with an inch Friday night. There is a 40 percent chance of snow Sunday morning, tapering off through the day Sunday, the weather service said.

Temperatures were expected to range from the high 20s to the mid-30s through the weekend.

Staff, wire report