ATLANTA, Feb. 12 (UPI) –
A deadly winter storm brought snow and ice from Texas to North Carolina Wednesday, canceling thousands of flights and making roads dangerous for travel.
The National Weather Service said ice and sleet could be “potentially crippling” in Atlanta, Athens and Augusta in Georgia and in Raleigh and other parts of central North Carolina, which could get up to an inch of ice.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory urged residents: “Check your neighbors. Take care of each other.”
Locations seeing the heaviest freezing rain accumulations will likely experience power outages and tree damage, the Weather Channel said.
The storm will ultimately target more than 100 million people as it moves east and then north through the Middle Atlantic States and New England, AccuWeather said.
Amtrak said it would suspend service on 10 trains in Georgia, Florida and the Carolinas Wednesday “to reduce the exposure of Amtrak passengers, crews and rail equipment to extreme weather conditions.”
Airlines canceled more than 2,600 flights as of early Wednesday, with some 1,600 cancellations in Atlanta and nearly 800 in Charlotte, N.C., flight-tracking website FlightAware.com said.
At least six deaths were blamed on the storm as it gathered strength over Texas and Mississippi.
Four people were killed in separate accidents on icy north Texas roads, including a Dallas firefighter responding to an accident who was knocked off a highway overpass, KXAS-TV, Dallas, reported. Two people were killed in separate accidents in Mississippi, the state Highway Patrol said.
“While parts of the South are hit with an ice storm about once every three years, this storm could have a similar outcome to that of 2002 for some locations,” AccuWeather meteorologist Dan Kottlowski said.
A Dec. 4-5, 2002, ice storm caused up to an inch of freezing rain in central North Carolina. Raleigh received the most freezing rain from a single storm since 1948 and Bristol, Tenn., on the northeast border with Virginia, received the most ice it had seen in 28 years.
On Tuesday President Obama signed an emergency declaration for Georgia and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts due to the emergency conditions.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which coordinates responses to disasters that overwhelm local and state resources, said it was working with states hit by the storm and was poised to provide help through its regional offices in Atlanta, Philadelphia, New York and Denton, Texas.
The agency warned travelers in the South not to drive. It encouraged families “to maintain an emergency supply kit both at home and in the car to help prepare for winter power outages and icy or impassable roads.”
The governors of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, South and North Carolina and Maryland declared weather emergencies. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed an executive order closing all state government offices Wednesday
Schools, universities, offices and government buildings were closed from the Southwest to the Southeast coast.
The storm brought heavy snow to mountains in northern Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia, with some locations forecast to receive a foot of snow or more.
The storm is forecast to move up the East Coast later Wednesday and into Thursday, dropping up to a foot of snow from Virginia to New England, the weather service said.