ATLANTA — Weather forecasters for debilitating snow and ice as far south as Georgia sent parts of the region into a dizzying Friday with shoppers scouring store shelves for storm supplies and road crews trying to get out of the way. to prevent a repeat of past winter ice breakups.
In Virginia, where a blizzard left thousands of motorists trapped on congested highways earlier this month, Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency and urged people to take the approaching storm seriously . Some store shelves have been stripped of essentials, including bread and milk in North Carolina.
Trucks prepared to spray the roads with a brackish mixture to prevent icing in the area, and Travis Wagler said he hadn’t seen such a shortage of supplies at his hardware store in Abbeville, South Carolina , for at least two winters.
“We sell everything you might expect: sleds, but also salt, shovels and firewood,” said Wagler of Abbeville Hardware. There, forecasters are predicting a quarter inch (0.6 centimeters) or more of ice on trees and power lines, which could lead to days without power.
“People are worried,” Wagler said.
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster issued an emergency order saying the state would likely feel the effects of the major winter storm beginning Sunday morning.
“There is the potential for very hazardous conditions caused by ice and snow accumulations, which will likely lead to power outages across the state,” he said.
The National Weather Service said 2 inches (5 centimeters) to 5 inches (12.7 centimeters) of snow could fall as far south as northeast Georgia from Saturday evening through Sunday, and power outages and travel problems will be compounded by another layer of ice and winds blowing at 35 mph (56 km/h). Snow accumulations could reach 8 inches (20 centimeters) at higher elevations.
The storm, after plunging to the southeast over the weekend, was so large it was expected to track northeast while bringing snow, sleet and rain around the east coast densely populated.
In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp said the state was preparing “to the fullest” for the explosion. He declared a state of emergency Friday night, saying the focus was the northern part of Georgia just over the east-west route of Interstate 20.
“Hopefully the Storm will be underdelivered, but it could be overdelivering. We just don’t know,” he said.
Parts of Tennessee could receive up to 6 inches of snow, forecasters said, and northern Mississippi and the Tennessee Valley region of Alabama could receive light snow accumulations. With lows forecast in the 20s over a wide area, any precipitation could freeze over and make driving difficult.
The fast-moving storm dropped heavy snowfall across a wide swath of the Midwest on Friday, where travel conditions deteriorated and dozens of schools closed or moved to online instruction.
A winter storm watch stretched from metro Atlanta north to Arkansas in the west and Pennsylvania in the north, covering parts of 10 states including Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia. Travel issues could extend to metro Atlanta, where about 2 inches (5 centimeters) of snow brought traffic to a standstill in 2014, an event still known as “Snowmaggedon.”
At Dawsonville Hardware, about 60 miles (97 km) north of Atlanta, owner Dwight Gilleland said he was already out of heat Friday noon and had only five bags of salt and grit left.
“I think the pandemic has made people more anxious than usual,” he said.
The city of Winston-Salem, North Carolina had to borrow workers from other departments to help deal with roads ahead of the storm because COVID-19 caused a shortage of workers, spokesman Randy Britton said. . Even volunteers helped out as the city ramped up its normal winter weather preparation schedule, he said.
“We feel really good where we are,” he said. “We checked the boxes.”
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper signed an emergency order and the administration urged people to stay home after the storm. The national highways agency has warned that labor shortages mean crews may not respond to problems as quickly as usual.
“We just don’t have as many people driving the trucks or operating the equipment,” said Marcus Thompson, spokesman for the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
Many schools and businesses will be closed on Monday for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, which could help ease travel issues as well as temperatures expected to hit the 40s.
Pam Thompson, owner of Dillard House Stables in Rabun County, northern Georgia, was near the center of the largest snowfall forecast. She was gathering food and hay for about 40 horses in case the snow and ice didn’t go away quickly.
“We have snow every year here in the mountains and it will be 6 to 8 inches, and it usually goes pretty fast,” Thompson said. “What I’m seeing on the forecast is that it’s going to be very cold next week, so the snow might not go away as quickly as usual.”
Collins reported from Columbia, South Carolina. AP writers Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama; Sarah Brumfield in Richmond, Virginia; Skip Foreman in Winston-Salem; North Carolina; Jeff Martin in Woodstock, Georgia; Gary Robertson in Raleigh, North Carolina; and Ben Finley in Norfolk, Virginia, contributed to this report.