ATLANTA (AP) — Snow falling steadily in parts of Kentucky turned roads hazardous Monday as a major winter storm system also threatened to spew ice, sleet and freezing rain across several Southern states.
Up to 4 inches of snow were reported by forecasters in some areas of Kentucky after daybreak amid scenes of cars fishtailing and sliding off highways in Louisville. Forecasters warned that the storm had the potential to spread a treacherous winter mix of precipitation across neighboring Tennessee and into northern parts of Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal issued a State of Emergency until Tuesday and ordered critical highways to be pre-treated with chemicals ahead of the storm settling across the region. Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant issued a State of Emergency Sunday for portions of northern Mississippi through Monday.
Winter advisories warned of the threat that roads in several areas could become hazardous with sleet and ice in coming hours, recalling a major ice storm in January 2014 that trapped motorists in cars and trucks for hours on metro Atlanta freeways. In Mississippi, counties near the Tennessee state line could see as much as three-quarters of an inch of ice from freezing rain, forecasters predicted.
In Georgia, up to a quarter of an inch of ice could accumulate in a handful mountainous northern counties that include cities such as Blairsville, Dalton and Dahlonega, the National Weather Service said in a winter storm warning.
It wasn't immediately clear whether sleet and ice would stay north of the Atlanta metro area. The weather service initially warned that there could be some sleet and possibly a glazing of freezing rain during the day on some highways, particularly in Atlanta's heavily populated northern suburbs, though the expected impact remained unclear as the system approached.
Georgia officials were taking no chances. The Georgia Emergency Management Agency on Sunday brought in more personnel to the state operations center and planned to operate around the clock.
"We are now 24/7 until we perceive that the threat has diminished, and that may be at least Wednesday but maybe even later in the week," Jim Butterworth, director the Georgia Emergency Management Agency Director Jim Butterworth, told The Associated Press on Sunday.
The Georgia Department of Transportation said it was pre-treating roads with a mixture of salt and water to limit the ability of ice to bond to roadways.
In Mississippi, a winter storm warning said sleet and freezing rain was likely through Monday evening from near Tunica along a line across far north Mississippi. Forecasters said up to a half-inch of ice and an inch of sleet could accumulate, making travel dangerous. They said people also could lose power should ice takes down branches, trees and power lines.
In Alabama, ice could accumulate up to a tenth of an inch thick in some areas, with higher amounts possible near the Tennessee border, the weather service said in a winter weather advisory for northern parts of the state. The Alabama National Guard, emergency officials and law enforcement agencies were all put on alert ahead of the storm, Gov. Robert Bentley said in a statement.
Alabama residents "should have an emergency preparedness kit in their vehicle in case travel is necessary while winter weather is impacting the state," Alabama Emergency Management Agency Director Art Faulkner said in a statement.
Farther south in New Orleans, forecasts of rain prompted authorities in one of that city's suburb to reschedule some of Monday's pre-Mardi Gras parades early to beat rain in the forecast for later in the day.
"We could get some rumbles of thunder, some lightning and brief, heavy rain," said National Weather Service meteorologist Phil Grigsby in southeast Louisiana. He predicted temperatures that reached the 70s recently in south Louisiana could drop to the 30s and 40s in the region for a while early in the week.