By Associated Press - Wednesday, January 3, 2018

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Instead of sandy shores and sunny skies, coastal North Carolina was bracing on Wednesday for a winter storm that could coat beaches with snow and create blizzard conditions in the northeastern corner.

The National Weather Service has issued a winter-storm warning or advisory for 44 counties in central and eastern North Carolina, which is already in the grip of a bitter cold snap. A wind-chill advisory is in effect in 22 counties in western North Carolina.

Up to 3 inches (8 centimeters) of snow is expected along the Outer Banks with 5 inches (13 centimeters) expected in eastern North Carolina.

Also, the weather service in Wakefield, Virginia, has posted a blizzard warning for extreme northeastern North Carolina. Specifically, the warning is in effect for Camden and Currituck counties from 4 p.m. Wednesday until 1 p.m. Thursday.

Forecasters are calling for up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) of snow, and with 50-mph (80-kph) wind gusts, whiteout conditions are possible.

By Wednesday afternoon, Duke Energy reported 362 power outages in its coverage area, which includes portions of eastern North Carolina. That was down from 3,500 earlier in the day.

Dominion Energy, which serves northeastern North Carolina, was reporting less than 10 customers without power Wednesday afternoon.

Many schools and government offices planned to close early Wednesday. The Fayetteville Observer reported that power failed at two schools in Cumberland County on Wednesday. Students who showed up for classes at Stedman Elementary and Stedman Primary schools were taken to the gym at Stedman middle school.

Officials said Westover High School in Fayetteville canceled classes because its heating system failed. The high school held a teacher workday instead.

In western North Carolina, where snow wasn’t expected, wind chills of -25 F (-32 C) degrees are possible through Thursday.

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