Much of the Southeastern United States was preparing on Friday for a blast of winter weather that was expected to bring schools, travel and everyday life to a halt this weekend.
The storm system had already closed schools and government offices in Arkansas and Oklahoma, where up to 4 inches of snow was forecast on Friday, and it was expected to intensify as it moved east through the day.
By Friday night, snow was expected in northern Georgia, and by Saturday, southern Virginia was forecast to see possibly heavy snow.
“A cold air mass in place will allow for a snow to fall today from portions of the southern plains and lower Mississippi Valley east to the foothills of the southern Appalachians and the Piedmont of the Carolinas. Tonight, snow is expected to spread north across portions of the southern mid-Atlantic region,” the National Weather Service said in a statement on Friday. “Heavy snow is possible for some areas.”
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Snow, sleet and freezing rain were forecast in Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina and other states in the South.
In the Carolinas, the winter weather began Friday night and is expected to last throughout the weekend, turning into colder temperatures by Sunday.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory to replace the states’ winter storm watch due to freezing rain, sleet and light snow. The advisory does not expand to coastal Horry and Brunswick (N.C.) counties.
Forecasts for the accumulation of snow and sleet have shifted farther northwest in the Carolinas, with minor accumulations from freezing rain possible across northwest and northern areas and a slight glaze possible farther south and east.
Hazardous driving conditions can be expected as well as the possibility of black ice in the Carolinas. It is possible that some trees weakened by Hurricane Matthew could fall due to high winds – which could include gusts up to 30 to 35 mph – throughout Saturday, as well as isolated power outages, according to the National Weather Service.
Some areas in the Carolinas can expect a wind chill advisory to be put in place early Sunday morning and into Monday morning, when the coldest temperatures are expected. Temperatures will begin to return to normal beginning Tuesday.
The National Weather Service expects limited impact along coastal areas; however, inland portions of North and South Carolina could encounter hazardous driving conditions.
Alabama’s governor, Robert Bentley, issued a state of emergency that began on Friday morning, as did North Carolina’s governor, Roy Cooper. The governor of Georgia, Nathan Deal, said he planned to follow suit on Friday.
Many airlines – including Southwest, American and Delta, for whom Atlanta is a major hub – had issued waivers for travelers whose flights may be affected. Many Saturday morning flights from Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport were canceled.
Two years ago, Atlanta officials were criticized for a decision to keep schools and government offices open ahead of a light snowstorm that left thousands of commuters stranded on roads and highways for 12 hours and longer.
In its statements ahead of Friday’s storm, Georgia’s Department of Transportation emphasized the changes it had made in the wake of that episode.
The state said it had 54,030 tons of salt and 65,460 tons of gravel on hand, as well as 450,000 gallons of brine – a salt and water mixture used to treat roads – and more than 380 pieces of snow removal equipment.
In Kentucky, The Associated Press reported that one man had died when his pickup truck slid off a snow-covered road on Thursday.
In North Carolina, Cooper urged people on Friday to stay off the roads during what he called “a significant snow event.” His inaugural activities, scheduled for the weekend, were canceled because of the storm.
The forecast varied widely across the state, where an inch was expected in Lumberton, and up to nine inches in Durham and Raleigh.
The Sun News contributed to this report.