Georgia faces a potentially “historic” winter storm that will probably ground planes and knock out power two weeks after a system stranded thousands of workers and schoolchildren.
Atlanta and eastern Georgia may get as much as three-quarters of an inch (1.9 centimeters) of ice before the storm passes the day after tomorrow, while areas in the northern part of the state are expected to receive as much as 9 inches of snow, the National Weather Service said.
“Let’s just start by saying this winter storm may be of historic proportions for the area,” the weather service said in a forecast analysis. “We are looking at significant snowfall totals north and significant, crippling ice totals, especially along the Interstate 20 corridor.”
Governors in six states declared emergencies because of the storm, which is forecast to push up the East Coast later this week.
Across the U.S., 1,214 flights were canceled as of 1:40 p.m. New York time, with Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport hardest-hit, according to FlightAware, a Houston-based tracking service. As many as 300,000 homes and businesses could lose power in the face of the storm, said Tim Oram, Meteorological Services Branch chief for the weather service’s southern region in Fort Worth, Texas.
“At this point everything is lining up,” Oram said. “It is from a once-in-every-10- to a once-in-every-20-years type of event. There is pretty high confidence we are going to see some pretty high accumulations of ice in the Georgia area.”
Along with the ice will come winds of at least 30 miles (48 kilometers) per hour, which are almost certain to bring down trees and power lines, he said.
Late last month, 2.5 inches of snow in Atlanta stranded almost 25,000 students at their schools or in buses and shut down the region’s highways, trapping thousands of motorists. There were 1,254 accidents, 134 people injured and at least one death caused by the storm.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal issued a state of emergency for 45 counties yesterday and 43 more today, urging residents to stay off the roads. Schools in the Atlanta area have been closed through tomorrow.
President Barack Obama declared an emergency in northern Georgia, freeing up federal funds to deal with the aftermath of the storm. Governors in Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi also issued emergency declarations.
Snow and ice spreading into North and South Carolina today will move northward late today and tomorrow, said Rob Carolan, owner of Hometown Forecast Services Inc. in Nashua, New Hampshire.
A more powerful storm will develop off the North Carolina coast tomorrow, and that is expected to bring snow and rain from Virginia into New England, Carolan said. How much snow falls on cities along the East Coast depends on the storm track.
“It is going to be tricky,” Carolan said. “Washington is one of these bubble places; this could be a substantial snowstorm for them.”
An area from western Virginia through Pennsylvania north to Albany, New York, and then across to New England may get as much as 6 inches of snow, Carolan said.
Washington, New York and Boston, as well as the other cities on the Interstate 95 corridor, will probably get 3 to 6 inches of snow before rain sets in, said Tom Kines, a meteorologist at AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania.
Rain will be heaviest along the coast from the New Jersey shoreline though Long Island and into Cape Cod in Massachusetts, Kines said.
The Northeast will probably have to deal with smaller storms over the weekend, Kines said. Some systems are expected to cross the U.S. on Feb. 15 and 16, with the second possibly leaving a few inches in its wake.