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Once-in-a-Generation Storm Descends on Deep South

<p>A brutal winter freeze began to descend on the Deep South early Tuesday.</p>

A brutal winter freeze began to descend on the Deep South early Tuesday with a huge swath of the region in the crosshairs of a storm that forecasters called "potentially paralyzing."

The storm was still in its infancy at 3:30 a.m. ET but meteorologists at The Weather Channel said they already had reports of sleet and freezing rain in parts of Texas and Louisiana.

Schools from the Lone Star State to Florida earlier announced that they would close Tuesday. More than 400 flights at Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport and some 300 at George Bush Intercontinental Airport had been canceled for the day, according to FlightAware early Tuesday.

Winter storm alerts have been issued by the National Weather Service all the way from central Texas eastward through the Gulf Coast into Georgia, the Carolinas and far southeast Virginia.

Weather Channel meteorologist Nick Wiltgen described it as a "potentially paralyzing winter storm." And the forecaster’s winter weather expert, Tom Niziol, said the South was in for weather "that many parts have not seen in years" — perhaps the biggest winter weather event in a generation.

The the biggest snow threat lay in eastern and central Texas, including Houston, and stretched to southeast Virginia. Eastern North Carolina and southeast Virginia would have the greatest chance of getting more than six inches of snow, according to The Weather Channel.

The winter storm is traveling south-eastwards and the wintry mix will dip as low as the Florida Panhandle on Tuesday. By Wednesday, it will have started to bend up the East Coast, where it will travel as far north as Providence, Rhode Island, before moving offshore by lunchtime.