Weather

Storm approaches South: snow, sleet, freezing rain forecast

Posted January 5

Lindsey Hodges shops at Kroger located off of Alps Rd. in Athens, Ga., Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017. A menacing winter storm approaching the South could bring freezing rain to states as far south as Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama and up to 8 inches of snow in parts of North Carolina and Virginia, forecasters said. The storm also brings the threat of freezing rain to parts of the Deep South including Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. (John Roark/Athens Banner-Herald via AP)

— A winter storm expected to strike the South with freezing rain, sleet and several inches of snow in some areas has prompted early school closings, emergency declarations by two states and a rush by some to stock up on food.

One man in Kentucky died Thursday after his pickup truck slid off a snow-slickened road, authorities said.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning that extended from eastern Alabama through north Georgia, including the Atlanta area, all the way to northeastern North Carolina. Forecasts called for a mix of freezing rain, sleet and snow in the region.

Even a thin layer of ice could make weekend travel treacherous on highways just north of the Gulf Coast all the way to the East Coast, forecasters warned.

Mike Schichtel, lead forecaster at the federal government's Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland, said the storm threat is significant for the Southeast.

"If you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle and you think you're safe, you're not," Schichtel said of the forecast. "Take it very seriously and adjust your travel plans accordingly."

In Kentucky, 55-year-old motorist Daniel Noble rounded a curve in his pickup truck and slid off a snow-slick road into a rail fence Thursday about 14 miles south of the city of Jackson, authorities said. Coroner George Griffith of Breathitt County said the man was pronounced dead at the scene, adding about an inch of snow had fallen there at the time.

Crews were out treating roadways early in Kentucky, but officials still urged motorists to use caution as some roadways were covered and slick.

Dozens of school districts in Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia either closed Thursday or called off classes early as snow began falling in some areas.

Other states further southward rushed to complete emergency preparations.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley issued a state of emergency Thursday that will open its emergency operations center Friday morning. The Alabama National Guard will activate 300 soldiers to help as needed.

Some school systems in central Alabama also are shutting Friday because of the threat there of as much as 3 inches of snow and sleet.

Light to moderate snow could extend from central Alabama into southeastern Virginia late Friday into early Saturday, the Weather Prediction Center said in an advisory.

Some parts of North Carolina could receive 4 inches or more of snow and there's a "slight risk" of 8 inches or more of snow in eastern North Carolina and southeast Virginia, according to the advisory.

The forecast called for 4 inches or more of snow for parts of Georgia, South Carolina and the piedmont and foothills of North Carolina. The warning for central North Carolina called for a mixture of snow and sleet with up to 5 inches locally and as much as 7 inches from the central piedmont to the northern coastal plain.

Shoppers stocked up on items such as bread and eggs at some North Carolina grocery stores. Sherrill Suitt Craig went shopping at a store near her home, only to leave for a store miles away because her initial stop was too crowded.

"I have no idea why, but people are acting like complete jackasses when they hear that there is snow in the forecast," Craig said. "I was just doing my regular shopping."

Snow is also possible in Atlanta, where snow and ice have jammed freeways in past storms. The National Weather Service projects that 2 inches of snow could fall in Atlanta, with slightly higher amounts in some suburbs.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal announced Thursday that a state of emergency declaration will take effect at noon Friday for 79 counties. His office said crews will begin treating roads and interstates Thursday and continue Friday. State government offices will remain open Friday.

In late January of 2014, news reports of a snow and ice storm prompted office workers in Atlanta to leave work early and flood freeways at roughly the same time. The crush of traffic, combined with snow and icy conditions, clogged interstates for miles. Trucks blocked many freeways, children were stranded on school buses, and several drivers were forced to sleep in their cars overnight.

This time, forecasters say, they don't expect the worst of the wintry weather to strike metro Atlanta until after schoolchildren are dismissed and the workday ends on Friday.

___

Associated Press writers Tom Foreman Jr. in Charlotte, North Carolina, Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama, Beth Campbell in Louisville, Kentucky, and John Raby in Charleston, West Virginia, contributed to this report.

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