From Texas to North Carolina, Southerners braced early Wednesday for a powerful winter storm that forecasters said could dump wet, heavy snow across portions of a 1,300-mile swath as it moves east beginning Wednesday morning and throughout the day.
The National Weather Services says temperatures across much of the South will be 20 to 30 degrees below normal Wednesday.
Snowfalls of up to eight inches were predicted for parts of North Carolina, with one to three inches expected elsewhere, along with dangerous mixtures of rain, ice and sleet. Highway crews spread brine and sand across roadways, schools closed and emergency officials prepared for possible power outages caused by heavy snow.
The storm was expected to reach as far as southern Virginia before blowing out to sea late Wednesday night. A winter storm warning was in effect Wednesday in several states, with thunderstorms predicted for some areas.
Alabama’s governor declared a state of emergency, and the governor of Georgia imposed a state of emergency for 50 northern counties. Schools were closed in Atlanta and other cities across the South. On Tuesday, schools in central North Carolina announced closings following a surprise snowfall of one to two inches earlier in the day.
Officials in Atlanta appeared to be taking no chances of repeating the chaotic "snow apocalypse" of last January, when the city was the brunt of late-night jokes after a mere two inches of snow paralyzed the region. Atlanta suffered through day-long traffic jams, with drivers stranded in their cars and schoolchildren separated from their parents for hours.
Four to five inches of snow were predicted for parts of northern Georgia, but Atlanta was expected to receive less than an inch.
Power outages were reported in Texas, where ice coated power lines. Hundreds of traffic accidents were reported in the state.
In Tennessee, where officials said 10 people died of hypothermia during an ice storm that began last week, Gov. Bill Haslam asked residents to check on their neighbors Wednesday. One to three inches of snow was predicted for the Nashville area beginning Wednesday afternoon.
"The best thing we can do is ask people to be great neighbors," Haslam said.
In Dallas, where one to four inches of snow were expected, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport reported 91 flight cancellations Wednesday morning. More cancellations were anticipated as the storm built Wednesday morning and swept eastward.
Freezing rain was falling in Texas on Wednesday morning as a low pressure system blew across the state and headed east toward Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Three to five inches of snow was predicted in parts of Mississippi and four inches in Birmingham, Ala., a city that, like Atlanta, endured traffic nightmares during last January’s storm.
Temperatures were expected to plunge far below normal across the South, where daytime highs normally reach the high 50s and low 60s in late February. Lows of 26 degrees below average were predicted Wednesday for Dallas, 20 degrees below average for Raleigh and 19 degrees below average for Memphis.
Some of the worst conditions were predicted for late Wednesday in North Carolina, already digging out from Tuesday’s snowfall. The state highway patrol reported more than 1,700 traffic accidents between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m. Tuesday as drivers slid off icy roads. In Raleigh, police reported more than 190 traffic accidents Tuesday morning, compared with just seven during the same period the previous Tuesday.
Some relief was expected Thursday, with high temperatures of above freezing predicted throughout the South.
Although the South generally receives far less snowfall than the Midwest and New England, snow is not a rare event in many areas in January and February. Parts of Arkansas and Tennessee receive six to 12 inches of snow a year, according to the Weather Channel. Dallas, Atlanta and Charlotte receive at least two days of measurable snowfall in a typical year.
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