ATLANTA — Snow and ice forecasts as far south as Georgia put much of the southeast on emergency alert as shoppers scoured store shelves for hurricane supplies and crews raced to treat highways and roads as a strong a winter storm was approaching from the Midwest. .
In Virginia, where a snowstorm trapped thousands of motorists on congested roads earlier this month, outgoing Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency and urged people to take the approaching storm seriously.
In North Carolina, essentials, including bread and milk, were gone from the shelves of some stores.
Elsewhere, trucks have begun spraying hundreds of miles of interstate and other highways with the salt mixture to prevent icing in the region.
Travis Wagler said he hadn’t seen such a shortage at his Abbeville, South Carolina hardware store in at least two winters.
“We sell everything you can expect: sleds, as well as salt, shovels and firewood,” Abbeville Hardware’s Wagler said Friday. The region has faced predictions of a quarter-inch (0.6 centimeter) or more of ice on trees and power lines, which could lead to days without power.
“People are worried,” Wagler said.
Parts of Tennessee could get up to 6 inches (15 centimeters) of snow, with small piles of snow in northern Mississippi and the Tennessee Valley region of Alabama, forecasters said. With a predicted low of 20s over a wide area, any precipitation could freeze, making driving difficult if not dangerous.
By Friday, a fast-moving storm had already brought heavy snowfall across much of the Midwest, where travel conditions deteriorated and many schools closed or switched to online learning.
The storm was expected to head northeast after an expected fall to the southeast over the weekend, bringing snow, sleet and rain to the densely populated east coast.
The 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 spread to the Atlanta subway, where about 2 inches (5 centimeters) of snow in 2014 brought traffic to a halt, an event still known as “Snowmaggedon.”
At Dawsonville Hardware, about 60 miles (95 km) north of Atlanta, owner Dwight Gilleland said he had already run out of heaters by Friday afternoon and had only five bags of salt and sand left.
“I think the pandemic has made people more worried than usual,” he said.
The National Weather Service said 2 to 5 inches (5 to 13 centimeters) of snow could fall as far south as northeast Georgia from Saturday evening through Sunday, and possible power outages and travel problems could be exacerbated by ice and winds. . gusts up to 35 mph (55 km/h).
“Hopefully the storm won’t be enough, but it can give more. We just don’t know,” Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said as he announced hurricane preparations. He took no chances as he declared a state of emergency and crews began repairing major roads and highways in northern Georgia.
Gov. Henry McMaster in nearby South Carolina also issued an emergency order, saying the state is likely to start feeling the effects of a severe winter storm on Sunday morning.
“There is the possibility of very dangerous conditions caused by ice and snow buildup, which will likely result in power outages across the state,” he said.
The city of Winston-Salem, North Carolina had to hire workers from other departments to repair roads ahead of the storm, according to spokesman Randy Britton, because COVID-19 caused a shortage of workers. Volunteers even came to the rescue, he said, as the city stepped up its usual winter weather preparation schedule.
“We feel very good where we are,” he said. “We ticked the box.”
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed an emergency order and the administration urged people to stay home when the storm hits. The state road agency has warned that due to manpower shortages, crews may not respond to problem areas as quickly as usual.
“We just don’t have a lot of people who drive trucks or operate equipment,” North Carolina Department of Transportation spokesman Marcus Thompson said.
Many schools and businesses will be closed on Monday for the Martin Luther King Jr holiday, which could help reduce travel issues as well as temperatures set to rise to 40 degrees.
Sudhin Tanawala and Geoffrey Collins