Thousands were without electricity across the South as a powerful winter storm moved across the eastern U.S., snarling ground and air traffic and threatening heavy snow for Northeastern cities including New York.
New York and Philadelphia might receive 10 inches (25 centimeters) of snow in the next two days and Washington may get 8 inches, the National Weather Service said. An inch of ice is possible in parts of Georgia and South Carolina. Winter storm alerts stretch from Louisiana to Maine.
“It looks to be the worst ice storm in Atlanta since 2000, and that one knocked out power to 500,000 people,” said Rob Carolan, owner of Hometown Forecast Services Inc. in Nashua, New Hampshire.
Across the U.S., 2,725 flights were canceled as of 9:12 a.m. today, including more than 65 percent of all arrivals and departures at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, said FlightAware, a Houston-based tracking service. Amtrak said it scrubbed some long-distance train service into the U.S. South. Six traffic deaths, in Texas and Mississippi, were blamed on the storm, the Associated Press said.
About 130,000 homes and businesses were blacked out from Louisiana to Virginia as of 9:15 a.m. New York time, including 63,000 in Georgia, power companies said on their websites.
“Possibly historic ice accumulations of over one inch of ice will be possible for portions of northern Georgia and South Carolina, with a little over half an inch of ice possible for central North Carolina,” said the U.S. Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.
A half inch of ice is all that’s needed to take down power lines, Carolan said.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal issued a state of emergency for 88 counties, urging residents to stay off the roads. Schools in the Atlanta area have been closed through today.
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, Mississippi and Virginia also issued emergency declarations.
More than 36,000 homes and businesses in central and northern Louisiana remained without power as after freezing rain hit the area overnight. Power for some customers may be out for three days, Entergy Corp.’s Louisiana unit said in a Twitter post.
Tallulah, Louisiana, in the northern part of the state, received an inch of ice and many areas from Texas to South Carolina got from one-tenth to one-third inch with more coming, the weather prediction center said.
As much as 5 inches of snow was reported in parts of Georgia and Alabama, while as much as 9 inches fell North Carolina, according to the center.
In the North, snow will begin tonight in Washington and overnight in New York, then start in Boston early tomorrow, said Tom Kines, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania.
“The trend is for the storm to track a little bit farther to the west,” Kines said. “For the major cities, that means there is a better chance of the precipitation changing over to rain, thus reducing the total.”
If the storm keeps on its current track, New York and Boston may escape with 2 to 5 inches, Carolan said.
“The tough thing about these things is to forecast where the rain/snow line sets up, because if you are wrong you are dead,” Carolan said.
The heaviest snow will probably fall along Interstate 81 in western Virginia, through central Pennsylvania and New York before turning east into northern New England, Kines and Carolan said.
The storm may be the best of the season for the ski areas of northern New England, in time for the February school vacation that begins next week, Carolan said. The area has been on the fringe of many storms this year and has yet to take a direct hit.
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