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Winter Arrives Ahead Of Schedule

With more than two weeks still to go before the official start of winter, much of the country was experiencing or bracing for rain, snow and sleet Friday.

"A mixture of snow, sleet, rain, even freezing rain will make for tough traveling all the way from the lower Midwest today through the Ohio Valley to the Mid-Atlantic states and into the Northeast, where snow and sleet will develop across the major cities later today," said CBS News Meteorologist George Cullen.

"We're looking at accumulations running in the neighborhood of two to four inches, maybe a little bit more in the Ohio Valley and Mid-Atlantic states," he added. "However, very heavy snow will be developing later in the Northeast, continuing throughout the weekend where we may see blizzard conditions developing across coastal sections of New England."

The storm was sweeping through West Virginia Friday, glazing roads and tree limbs with treacherous ice that killed one man and likely to leave as much as 14 inches of snow in the state's eastern mountains.

Ice, freezing rain, sleet and snow made travel slippery across much of the state, with the most severe weather in the eastern mountains, the Greenbrier Valley and the Eastern Panhandle.

Snow, rain and ice fell Thursday across North Carolina, but the lights remained on as the state escaped a reprise of the devastating ice storm of one year earlier.

Three to 5 inches of snow fell across most of the western mountains, where schools closed from Asheville west to the Tennessee border. Further east, a cold rain fell in Charlotte and there was some ice buildup in the Hickory area.

But nothing fell that rivaled the inch-thick ice that sent tree limbs crashing down on power lines one year ago, plunging 1.8 million electricity customers into darkness.

In Manassas, Va., CBS Radio affiliate WTOP's Kristy King reports the slushy mixture on the roads was treacherous.

"I've seen two wipeouts, with one truck turned around facing traffic, another truck bumped all the way up against the wall," she said.

"There's about two inches of snow and on the bottom is an icy slush," Maryland State Police Cpl. Robert Moroney in Gaithersburg told CBS affiliate WUSA-TV. "It's extremely slick.

"I just don't see anything good coming out of this morning's rush hour," he added.

Mid-Atlantic states mobilized hundreds of pieces of snow removal equipment, both for the precipitation already on the roads and for the anticipated mess.

A West Virginia man died Thursday in when he apparently lost control of his vehicle after hitting ice, slid over the center line and was slammed by an empty tanker truck.

A 23-year-old Virginia man also was killed Thursday when his Jeep Wrangler hit a slick spot on an overpass and slammed into a barrier.

Despite temperatures that could approach freezing Friday night, Florida also has to keep an eye on a late-forming tropical storm.

Odette was the first recorded tropical storm to form in the Caribbean Sea in the month of December, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Hurricane season officially ended Nov. 30.

"The only thing unusual about this storm is that is that it formed so late," said Stacy Stewart, a hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center.

Tropical Storm Odette strengthened slightly in the Caribbean Sea Friday, heading toward the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica and other islands, forecasters said. However, it was not expected to reach hurricane strength.

There was also bad weather in the Pacific Northwest. Winds gusting as high as 80 mph cut power to more than 193,000 people and businesses Thursday in Western Washington. One person was seriously injured when a tree fell on a car.

"Because of the amount of damage and the trees in the roadways, it's probably going to be days before we get the lights back on to all of our customers," said Dorothy Bracken, spokeswoman for Puget Sound Energy, which saw 187,000 customers lose power at the peak of the outage.

The weather service issued a high wind warning into Saturday morning for western Washington.

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