Major winter storm: the south is preparing for a big blow of snow and ice

ATLANTA – Forecasts of snow and ice as far south as Georgia put much of the Southeast on an emergency preparedness footing as shoppers scoured store shelves for storm supplies and crews rushed to deal with highways and roads as a major winter storm approached the Midwest.

In Virginia, where a blizzard left thousands of motorists trapped on congested highways earlier this month, outgoing Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency and urged people to take the oncoming storm seriously. was approaching.

In North Carolina, some store shelves have been stripped of essentials, including bread and milk.

Elsewhere, trucks began spraying a brackish mixture over hundreds of miles of highways and other roads to prevent icing in the region.

Travis Wagler said he hasn’t seen such a shortage of supplies at his hardware store in Abbeville, South Carolina, in at least two winters.

“We sell everything you would expect: sleds, but also salt, shovels and firewood,” Abbeville Hardware’s Wagler said Friday. This region has faced predictions of 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.

Parts of Tennessee could get up to 6 inches of snow, forecasters say, and northern Mississippi and the Tennessee Valley region of Alabama could get light snow accumulations. With lows forecast in the 20s over a wide area, any precipitation could freeze, making driving difficult, if not dangerous.

The fast-moving storm had already 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.

The storm, after its expected weekend dip in the southeast, was then expected to track northeast while dropping snow, sleet and rain around the densely populated east coast.

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 95 miles north of Atlanta, owner Dwight Gilleland said he was already out of heaters as of noon Friday and had only five bags of salt and sand left.

“I think the pandemic has made people more anxious than normal,” he said.

The National Weather Service said 2 to 5 inches (5 to 13 centimeters) of snow could fall as far south as northeast Georgia from Saturday night through Sunday, and possible power outages and problems displacement could be exacerbated by any ice cover – and winds gusting to 35 mph (55 kph).

“Hopefully the Storm will be underdelivered, but it could be overdelivering. We just don’t know,” Georgia Governor Brian Kemp said as he announced preparations for the storm. He was taking no chances in declaring a state of emergency, and crews began treating major roads and highways in North Georgia.

Governor Henry McMaster in neighboring South Carolina also issued an emergency order, saying the state would likely begin to feel the effects of the major winter storm on 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 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 once the storm hits. 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 that many people to drive the trucks or operate the equipment,” North Carolina Department of Transportation spokesman Marcus Thompson said.

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.

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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 in Woodstock, Georgia; Gary Robertson in Raleigh, North Carolina; and Ben Finley in Norfolk, Virginia, contributed to this report.

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