States of emergency declared in Southeast ahead of winter snowstorm

Governors of several southeastern states have declared states of emergency ahead of a huge winter storm that has about 64 million Americans under some type of weather warning.

The storm dumped heavy snow in parts of the Midwest on Friday, causing harsh travel conditions and shutting schools. The weather is expected to hit the southeast on Saturday before moving northeast.

Gary Worden, a crew member at a McDonalds in Des Moines, shovels snow on Friday.Bryon Houlgrave/The Register via USA Today Network

“On Saturday, the system will produce snow and rain over parts of the middle/lower Mississippi Valley,” the National Weather Service said. “Rain will move southeast as snow begins to fall over parts of central and southern Appalachia by Saturday evening.”

As the rain moves into North and South Carolina, “pockets of rain/freezing rain will develop over the southern mid-Atlantic/southern Appalachians,” the agency said.

In anticipation of the storm, the governors of Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia declared states of emergency.

“The main message to my fellow Georgians is just to be mindful of the winter weather this weekend,” Gov. Brian Kemp said at a news conference on Friday. “By being prepared and knowing what to do in the event of winter conditions, you can help us minimize risk, reduce recovery time and, most importantly, keep everyone safe.”

Kemp said the state has already begun to mobilize and is ready “to deploy the resources necessary to protect our state.”

Northeast Georgia is under a winter storm warning from 10 p.m. to midnight Saturday, according to the National Weather Service in Peachtree City. The region is expected to receive 2 to 4 inches of snow accumulations as well as ice accumulations, the agency said.

In Virginia, then governor. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency on Friday to allow for rapid coordination in the event of snowfall, according to NBC Washington. Northam said the state is still trying to recover from a snowstorm earlier this month.

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, who was sworn in on Saturday, said in a tweet that forecasters predicted “significant” weather over the weekend and urged people to consider staying home.

The DC metro area is expected to receive up to 4 inches of snow, NBC Washington reported. Up to 8 inches is possible for areas of Fauquier and Loudoun counties in Virginia and Frederick county in Maryland.

In southern Maryland, up to 2 inches of snow is possible, but residents of that area should expect mostly rain, according to the information station.

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster warned residents could begin to feel the effects of the storm system by 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 National Weather Service noted winter storm and ice storm warnings were in effect for parts of the state, and a winter storm watch had been issued for Columbia and surrounding areas.

In neighboring North Carolina, Governor Roy Cooper signed an emergency order and urged people to stay home and off the roads once the storm hits.

“This storm will bring significant impacts of snow, sleet, and freezing rain to various parts of the state, with likely power outages and travel disruptions,” Cooper said in a news release. “North Carolina residents should pay close attention to their local weather forecasts over the next few days and ensure they are personally prepared before Saturday afternoon.”

With a staff shortage due to the pandemic, Winston-Salem had to borrow workers from other departments in order to prepare the streets before the snowstorm.

“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.

The snow is expected to start falling around 5 a.m. Sunday and then turn into freezing rain, according to NBC affiliate WRAL of Raleigh.

Raleigh is expected to see about a tenth of an inch to a quarter of an inch of freezing rain on Sunday with wind gusts of up to 40 mph, the news station reported. Up to a half inch of freezing rain is expected near Charlotte.

After hitting the southeast, the storm will move into the Great Lakes region on Monday. Cities like Cleveland, Syracuse and Buffalo New York should expect a mix of snow, freezing rain and rain. The storm will then hit parts of Canada on Tuesday morning.

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