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US weekend storm: snow and ice forecast as far south as Georgia

Forecasts of snow and ice as far south as Georgia have placed much of the southeastern US in an emergency. Shoppers scoured store shelves for storm supplies and crews rushed to cover highways and roads as a major winter storm approached from the Midwest.

In Virginia, where thousands of motorists were trapped on blocked highways by a snowstorm earlier this month, 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 of essential items, including bread and milk.

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

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

“We sell everything you’d expect: sleds, as well as salt, shovels and firewood,” Wagler said Friday of Abbeville Hardware. That region faced forecasts of a quarter inch (0.6 cm) of ice or more on trees and power lines, which could lead to days without electricity.

“People are concerned,” Wagler said.

Shoppers are greeted Friday with empty shelves in the meat department of a supermarket in Alexandria, Virginia. Photo: Shawn Thew/EPA

Parts of Tennessee could get up to 6 inches of snow, forecasters said, and northern Mississippi and the Tennessee Valley region of Alabama could get light snowdrifts. With lows predicted in the 1920s across a wide area, precipitation could freeze, making driving difficult or even dangerous.

By Friday, the fast-moving storm had already brought heavy snowfall across much of the Midwest, where travel conditions deteriorated and many schools were closed or switched to online education.

The storm, after its expected weekend dip in the southeast, would then move to the northeast as snow, sleet and rain fall around the densely populated east coast.

A winter storm watch stretched 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 to metro Atlanta, where about 2 inches of snow brought traffic to a halt in 2014, an event still known as “Snowmaggedon.”

A mixture of ice and up to an inch of snow is expected in Atlanta on Saturday, according to a recommendation from the National Weather Service.

At Dawsonville Hardware, about 100 miles north of Atlanta, owner Dwight Gilleland said he had gone out of heating by noon Friday and only had five bags of salt and sand left.

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

Nearly 1,000 flights within the U.S. have already been canceled for Sunday pending snow and ice in the south, according to flight-tracking site flightaware.com, which tracks canceled flights worldwide.