ATLANTA (AP) – Forecasts for snow and ice as far south as Georgia have put much of the southeastern area on emergency alert as shoppers searched store shelves for storm supplies, and crews ran to treat highways and roads as a major winter storm approached from the Midwest.
In Virginia, where a blizzard went thousands of motorists trapped on clogged highways earlier this month, outgoing Governor Ralph Northam declared state of emergency and urged people to take the impending storm seriously. In North Carolina, some store shelves were devoid of essential items, including bread and milk.
On Friday, the rapid storm had already thrown heavy snow over a large swath of the Midwest, with travel conditions deteriorating and dozens of schools closing or relocating to online education. Iowa was hardest hit. Brad Small, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service, said Des Moines airport saw more than 14 inches of snow and a large swath of central and southern Iowa recorded between 9 inches and a foot of snow.
In perhaps a preview of such problems to the east, the Iowa State Patrol had reported that 207 motorists were assisted and 78 accidents had occurred in the four hours between 5pm and 9pm on Friday, according to the Des Moines Register.
And in Chicago, where a mayor once lost a bid for re-election, in part due to the city’s lack of response to a massive snowstorm while in office, the streets and sanitation department equipped more than 200 people Saturday morning. trucks with snowplow blades to keep the streets navigable during and after the expected storm.
Parts of Tennessee could receive as much as 15 inches of snow, forecasters said, and the northern Mississippi and Tennessee Valley region of Alabama could receive light snow accumulation. With predicted low lows in the 20s over a wide area, any rainfall can freeze, making driving difficult, if not dangerous.
Travis Wagler said he had not seen such a run on supplies at his construction market in Abbeville, South Carolina, for at least two winters.
“We sell everything you would expect: sledges, but also salt, shovels and firewood,” Wagler of Abbeville Hardware said Friday. This region faced predictions of a quarter inch (0.6 centimeter) of ice or more on trees and power lines, which could lead to days without electricity.
A winter storm surge stretched from just north of the Atlanta metro to Arkansas in the west and Pennsylvania in the north, covering parts of 10 states, including Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia. Travel problems can extend into the Atlanta subway, where about 2 inches (5 inches) of snow brought traffic to a slippery stop in 2014, an event still known as “Snowmaggedon.”
A mix of ice and up to an inch (2.5 inches) of snow is expected in Atlanta, according to a statement issued Saturday by the National Weather Service.
At Dawsonville Hardware about 60 miles (95 kilometers) north of Atlanta, owner Dwight Gilleland said he was already out of heaters by noon Friday and had only five bags of salt and sand left.
“I think the pandemic has made people more anxious than usual,” he said.
Nearly 1,000 flights within the United States have already been canceled by Sunday in anticipation of snow and ice in the south, according to flight tracking site flightaware.com, which tracks flight cancellations worldwide. A major U.S. airport hub for American Airlines – Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina – carries the list of cancellations to Sunday at U.S. airports.
Possible power outages and travel problems could be exacerbated by any ice and wind gust to 35 mph (55 km / h), the National Weather Service said.
“Hopefully the storm will surrender, but it can surrender. We just do not know,” Georgia Governor Brian Kemp said as he announced storm preparations. northern Georgia.
Governor Henry McMaster of neighboring South Carolina also issued an emergency order, saying the state would likely begin to feel the effects of the major winter storm Sunday morning.
“There is a potential for very dangerous conditions caused by accumulations of ice and snow that are likely to result in power outages across the state,” he said.
The city of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, had to borrow workers from other departments to help treat roads ahead of the storm because COVID-19 had caused a shortage of workers, spokesman Randy Britton said. Even volunteers volunteered to help as the city stepped up its normal schedule to prepare for the winter weather, he said.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper signed an emergency order and the administration urged people to stay home when the storm hits. The state highway agency warned that labor shortages meant crews might not respond to problem areas as quickly as usual.
The storm, after the expected weekend dive in the southeast, was then expected to go into the northeast, while snow, sleet and rain fell around the densely populated eastern coast.
Many schools and businesses will be closed Monday due to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, which may help reduce travel problems along with temperatures expected to rise into the 40s.
Collins reported from Columbia, South Carolina. AP writers Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama; Sarah Brumfield in Richmond, Virginia; Tom Foreman Jr. in Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Jeff Martin of Woodstock, Georgia; Gary Robertson of Raleigh, North Carolina; and Ben Finley of Norfolk, Virginia, contributed to this report.