RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ A fierce winter storm swept through parts of the Southeast, dropping up to two feet of snow in the mountains here, in Virginia and Tennessee, and dousing the coast with hard rain.

Highways and some schools were shut Tuesday, while power outages left 62,000 in the dark and cold last night. Two motorists died in separate weather-related accidents in North Carolina, where hundreds were stranded on Interstates 40 and 26.

``Some people just don't know how to drive in this,'' said Paula Davis, a Virginia transportation worker who spent the day freeing drivers from the slush. ``I don't even listen to the weather (forecast). If it's going to come, it's going to come.''

A state of emergency was posted for all 100 North Carolina counties, hammered between wet snow in the mountains, and cold rain and heavy winds on the coast. Southwestern Virginia and eastern Tennessee were not hit as badly.

``The storm itself did not surprise us,'' Brian McFeaters of North Carolina's emergency management division said today. ``It was forecast to be a strong northeaster along the coast. What did catch us totally by surprise is all the snow in the mountains.''

In western North Carolina, more than 40 miles of I-40 was closed past the Tennessee line, while wrecks jammed I-26 to South Carolina, the state Highway Patrol said.

A gale warning was posted today for North Carolina's coastal waters. Wind gusts of 45 mph and seas of 12 feet were possible. A coastal flood warning was posted from Ocracoke Inlet north to the Virginia line.

``I'm hoping for the best,'' said Webb Fuller, Nags Head town manager. ``But we're gearing up just in case something does happen.''

Snowfall varied across the mountains, with two feet reported in Jackson County, the National Weather Service reported.