Huge swathe of US hit by winter storm

Huge swathe of US hit by winter storm

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Residents across a huge swath of the US are hunkering down as a massive winter storm packing snow, ice and high winds, followed by possible record-breaking cold, moves up the Eastern Seaboard, with the worst conditions expected from the Carolinas to Maine.

The massive storm began in the Gulf of Mexico, first hitting the Florida panhandle. It has prompted thousands of cancelled flights, shuttered schools and businesses and sparked fears of coastal flooding and power outages.

Wind gusts of 80-95km/h, strong enough to cause downed trees and power lines, are predicted in places where the National Weather Service issued blizzard warnings.
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State and local officials urged residents to prepare for possible power losses and stay home so crews can clear streets and roads of snow.

The blast of winter weather and plunging temperatures that has gripped much of the US in recent days already has taken a human toll.

The number of deaths linked to the relentless cold had risen to at least 17. Two homeless men were found dead in Houston, where police said the deaths were believed to be the result of "exposure to frigid weather." Deaths also were reported in Mississippi, Michigan and other states.
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