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South Prepares for Snow as 73 Million Nationwide Face Brutal Weather

The wallop is forecast to deliver heavy snow in some areas, while freezing rain will make for dangerous driving conditions in others.
Image: Southern snow
Trucks are lined up in the snow near Memphis, Tennessee.Kristin Diane

Emergency declarations were issued, classes were canceled, and grocery shelves were picked bare Friday morning as a potentially historic winter storm eyed the Southeast.

The wallop is forecast to deliver heavy snow in some areas, while freezing rain will make for dangerous driving conditions in others. The brunt of the storm is expected to come Friday afternoon and night.

Sometime after 2 p.m. ET Friday, snow will start falling in Charlotte, North Carolina, where 4 to 8 inches of snow is possible, and in Raleigh, North Carolina, where 6 to 8 inches of snow is forecast. In Atlanta, 2 to 4 inches of snow and sleet are expected beginning Friday afternoon, with the heaviest falling overnight into Saturday morning.

Norfolk, Virginia, was expecting an even heavier dump of snow, with 6 to 12 inches of snow and sleet possible starting after 8 p.m. Friday.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for Friday into Saturday, from eastern Alabama through north Georgia, the Carolinas, and part of Virginia.

"The heaviest snow begins overnight tonight," TODAY meteorologist Al Roker said Friday. "The snow will mix with sleet and rain. In fact, ice is going to be a problem."

Remembering the 2014 ice storm that paralyzed Atlanta, Georgia and Alabama issued emergency declarations. The storm was already being blamed for a driving fatality in Kentucky on Thursday.

Lucinda Anderson and her daughter Shaye Rabold walk through falling snow in Bowling Green, Kentucky, on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017.Austin Anthony / Daily News via AP

Georgia authorities advised residents in the northern half of the state to get enough food and water to last at least three days.

"We're looking at a significant event," said Sue Loeffler, director of the state Emergency Management Agency. "Go to the grocery store now."

Meanwhile, school districts in Kentucky, Tennessee, central Alabama and West Virginia canceled classes for Friday. Some closed early Thursday, too.

The storm comes after whiteout conditions buried parts of the Northeast under more than a foot of snow and created whiteout conditions. Light snow continued in parts of the Northeast Friday morning.

After deluging the South, the storm will barrel toward the Northeast, clipping the Atlantic City area, the tip of Long Island, and Nantucket. Boston could get up to 5 inches and New York City could see 1 to 3 inches through Saturday evening, forecasters said.

Nationwide, 32 states and 73 million people from coast to coast are under winter advisories, warnings and watches Friday.

In the West, up to 5 feet of snow covered parts of the Sierra and Rocky Mountains this week, causing delays and cancellations at the Denver airport. And in drought-stricken southern California, much-needed rain fell — but it left one man stranded in the swollen Los Angeles River in Silver Lake Thursday, forcing a swift-water rescue, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said.

In the South, where big winter storms come once in a blue moon, officials warned people to prepare for the worst.

"This can potentially be a historic weather event," Michael Thurmond, chief executive of DeKalb County in metro Atlanta, said Thursday.

Nervous residents heeded the warning.

"I have no idea why, but people are acting like complete jackasses when they hear that there is snow in the forecast," Sherrill Suitt Craig, who lives in Raleigh, told the AP after traveling a town over to go grocery shopping because her local market was too crowded. "I was just doing my regular shopping."