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Forecasts of snow and ice as far south as Georgia have put a big part of the south-east of the US on an emergency preparedness footing. Shoppers scoured store shelves for storm supplies and crews raced to treat highways and roads as a major winter storm approached from the midwest.
In Virginia, where a blizzard left thousands of motorists trapped on clogged highways earlier this month, the outgoing governor, Ralph Northam, declared a state of emergency and urged people to take the approaching storm seriously.
In North Carolina, some store shelves were stripped bare of essentials including bread and milk.
Elsewhere, trucks began spraying a briny mixture on hundreds of miles of interstates and other roads to prevent icing across the region.
Travis Wagler said he hadn’t seen such a run on supplies at his Abbeville, South Carolina, hardware store in at least two winters.
“We’re selling everything you might expect: sleds, but also salt, shovels and firewood,” Wagler said from Abbeville Hardware on Friday. That region faced predictions of a quarter-inch (0.6cm) of ice or more on trees and power lines, which could lead to days without electricity.
“People are worried,” Wagler said.
Parts of Tennessee could get as much as 6in of snow, forecasters said, and northern Mississippi and the Tennessee Valley region of Alabama could receive light snow accumulations. With lows predicted in the 20s across a wide area, any precipitation could freeze, making driving difficult if not hazardous.
By Friday, the fast-moving storm had already dropped heavy snow across a large swath of the midwest, where travel conditions deteriorated and scores of schools closed or moved to online instruction.
The storm, after its expected weekend dip into the south-east, was then expected to head into the north-east while dropping snow, sleet and rain around the densely populated eastern seaboard.
A winter storm watch extended from just north of metro Atlanta to Arkansas in the west and Pennsylvania in the north, covering parts of 10 states including Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia. Travel problems could extend into metro Atlanta, where about 2in of snow brought traffic to a slip-sliding halt in 2014, an event still known as “Snowmaggedon”.
A mixture of ice and up to an inch of snow is expected in Atlanta, according to an advisory issued on Saturday by the National Weather Service.
At Dawsonville Hardware, about 60 miles north of Atlanta, owner Dwight Gilleland said he was already out of heaters by noon Friday and only had five bags of salt and sand left.
“I think the pandemic has made people more anxious than normal,” he said.
Nearly 1,000 flights within the US have already been cancelled for Sunday in anticipation of snow and ice in the south, according to the flight tracking site flightaware.com, which tracks flight cancellations worldwide.
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