[Weather alert] Brutal storm slams the coastal South

A brutal winter storm smacked the coastal Southeast with a rare blast of snow and ice Wednesday, hitting parts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina with their heaviest snowfall in nearly three decades.

Forecasters warned that the same system could soon strengthen into a “bomb cyclone” as it rolls up the East Coast, bringing hurricane-force winds, coastal flooding and up to a foot of snow.

At least 17 deaths were blamed on dangerously cold temperatures that for days have gripped wide swaths of the U.S. from Texas to New England.

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A winter storm warning extended from the Gulf Coast of Florida’s “Big Bend” region all the way up the Atlantic coast. Forecasters said hurricane-force winds blowing offshore on Thursday could generate 24-foot (7-meter) seas.

Schools in the Southeast called off classes just months after being shut down because of hurricane threats, and police

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