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States of emergency declared in Southeast ahead of winter snowstorm

Some 64 million Americans are under some type of weather alert.

The governors of several southeastern states declared states of emergency ahead of a massive winter storm that has roughly 64 million Americans under some type of weather alert.

The storm dumped heavy snow across parts of the Midwest on Friday, causing difficult travel conditions and leading to school closures. The weather is expected to hit the Southeast on Saturday before moving into the Northeast.

Syndication: The Des Moines Register
Gary Worden, a crew member at a McDonalds in Des Moines, shovels snow Friday.Bryon Houlgrave / The Register via USA Today Network

"On Saturday, the system will produce snow and rain over parts of the Middle/Lower Mississippi Valley," the National Weather Service said. "The rain will move into the Southeast as the snow starts falling over parts of the Central/Southern Appalachians by Saturday evening."

As the rain moves into North and South Carolina, "pockets of rain/freezing rain will develop over southern Mid-Atlantic/Southern Appalachians," according to the agency.

In preparation for the storm, the governors of Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia declared states of emergency.

“The main message to my fellow Georgians is just be winter weather aware this weekend,” Gov. Brian Kemp said at a news conference on Friday. “By being ready and knowing what to do in the event of winter weather, you can help us minimize risk, reduce the time it takes to recover and most importantly keep everyone safe.”

Kemp said the state has already started mobilizing and is prepared “to deploy resources needed to protect our state." 

Northeast Georgia is under a winter storm warning from 10 p.m. Saturday to midnight, according to the National Weather Service in Peachtree City. The area is expected to get snow accumulations of 2 to 4 inches as well as ice accumulations, the agency said.

In Virginia, then-Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency on Friday to allow quick coordination in response to snow, according to NBC Washington. Northam said the state is still trying to recover from a snowstorm earlier this month.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who was sworn in on Saturday, said in a tweet that forecasters are predicting "significant" weather conditions over the weekend and urged people to consider staying home.

The D.C. metro area is expected to get up to 4 inches of snow, NBC Washington reported. Up to 8 inches is possible for areas of Fauquier and Loudoun counties in Virginia and Frederick County in Maryland.

In Southern Maryland, up to 2 inches of snow is possible, but people living in that area should expect mostly rain, according to the news station.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster warned that residents could start to feel the effects of the storm system by Sunday morning.

“There is a potential for very dangerous conditions caused by accumulations of ice and snow, which will likely result in power outages across the state,” he said.

The National Weather Service said winter storm and ice storm warnings were in effect for parts of the state, and a winter storm watch had been issued for Columbia and surrounding areas.

In neighboring North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper signed an emergency order and urged people to stay home and off the roads once the storm hits.

"This storm will bring significant impacts from snow, sleet and freezing rain in different parts of the state, with likely power outages and travel disruptions," Cooper said in a news release. "North Carolinians should pay close attention to their local weather forecast over the next few days, and make sure they are personally prepared before Saturday afternoon."

With a staffing shortage due to the pandemic, Winston-Salem had to borrow workers from other departments in order to prepare streets ahead of the snowstorm.

“We just don’t have as many people to drive the trucks or operate the equipment,” spokesman Marcus Thompson at the North Carolina Department of Transportation said.

Snow should begin to fall around 5 a.m. on Sunday but then change to freezing rain, according to NBC affiliate WRAL of Raleigh.

Raleigh is expected to see roughly a tenth of an inch to a quarter of an inch of freezing rain on Sunday with wind gusts up to 40 mph, the news station reported. Up to half an inch of freezing rain is expected near Charlotte.

After battering the Southeast, the storm will move toward the Great Lakes region on Monday. Cities including Cleveland, and Syracuse and Buffalo New York should expect a mix of snow, freezing rain and rain. The storm will then hit parts of Canada on Tuesday morning.