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NEW YORK (AP) — One of the first big storms of the season moved across the eastern half of the country Thursday, contributing to at least seven traffic deaths and closing schools as it dropped snow as far south as central Alabama.
From St. Louis to the South and into the Northeast, snow, freezing rain, and in some parts, sleet, made driving tricky and caused crashes. Snow fell in New York City during the afternoon.
As much as 8 inches (20 centimeters) of snow blanketed the St. Louis area, and forecasters predicted up to 6 inches (15 centimeters) in parts of southern New England as the storm made its way east. They also predicted northern New Jersey could see 4 to 8 inches of snow before the system exits the region early Friday, while parts of suburban Philadelphia had 5 inches (12 centimeters ) of snow by Thursday afternoon.
Weather officials said the overnight trace in Alabama missed setting a record for earliest snow by about two weeks.
In neighboring Mississippi, a tour bus bound for a casino overturned, killing two people and injuring 44 others Wednesday afternoon. Witnesses said the driver lost control after crossing an icy overpass and the bus rolled over on its driver’s side, coming to rest in an interstate median, Mississippi Highway Patrol spokesman Capt. Johnny Poulos said. The crash happened about 35 miles (55 kilometers) southeast of downtown Memphis, Tennessee.
“All of a sudden the bus started swerving then it spun around two times, hit the rail and then flipped over,” bus passenger Veronica Love told news outlets as she left a hospital after the wreck. “The second spin, it started picking up speed. It was, I mean, what could you do?”
Later Wednesday night, near Little Rock, Arkansas, three people were killed in separate crashes on icy roads. The interstate was closed and reopened shortly before daybreak Thursday, but officials said traffic was slow-going because some drivers had fallen asleep.
Officials in Ohio reported at least one traffic death that was likely weather-related. Indiana State Police also reported a death early Thursday, which they said was caused by the 60-year-old woman driving too fast on a slick road.
In Philadelphia, a meteorologist told the Allentown Morning Call that this storm is “an overperformer.” By 3 p.m. Thursday, parts of suburban Philadelphia had 5 inches of snow. The freezing rain turned to ice on roads around the state, leading to a number of crashes and reports of cars sliding off roads.
In North Carolina, the National Park Service closed a portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway to traffic Thursday because of dangerous road conditions stemming from snow, sleet and freezing rain, the Asheville Citizen Times reported .
Schools closed or sent students home early across the lower Great Lakes and the Northeast, including at the University of Connecticut where classes were canceled in the afternoon.
In Virginia, the planned launch early Thursday of an unmanned cargo rocket to the International Space Station had to be rescheduled by one day because of the weather, NASA said. The unmanned Cygnus cargo craft is now scheduled to lift off early Friday from Wallops Island on the Eastern Shore carrying supplies and research materials for the astronauts at the space station.