— -- With a devastating winter storm seizing half of the U.S. in its snowy grip, bringing snow and ice, states across the South warned residents today to stay off the roads and stock up on food.
"This is a very serious weather event," Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said today. "My only concern is, is that I don't think people have an appreciation for the gravity of it."
Across the country, 28 states were under winter weather alerts today. Winter storm warnings stretched from the deep South to Boston. Norfolk and Virginia Beach faced blizzard warnings, with low visibility expected tonight into Saturday.
At least five southern states, including South and North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Virginia, were already under a state of emergency as forecasts called for the possibility of 1 to 3 inches of snow.
In parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia, ice was already forming. In Nashville, Tennessee, more than 300 crashes were reported in less than four hours. In Kentucky, icy roads were blamed for a car crash that killed one man.
Across the South, long lines snaked through grocery stores as people stocked up on food and other items. In Raleigh, North Carolina, residents were urged to have a three-day supply of food. Staples such as water, milk and canned goods were being cleared off the shelves.
In Georgia, state patrol officers handed out flyers to warn truckers of road dangers, as residents were urged to avoid all unnecessary travel and tanker trucks pre-treated roads with brine. At Atlanta's airport today, airlines canceled more than 370 flights -- 250 additional cancellations were expected Saturday.
The storm will move north Saturday, pushing through the Carolinas and to the Northeast.
The heaviest snow is expected in North Carolina and Virginia, where some spots could see 6 inches to more than a foot. Maryland, Delaware and the Jersey Shore were expected to get 4 inches to 6 inches of snow. Southern New England, including Connecticut, Rhode Island and eastern Massachusetts, could see 6 to 8 inches of snow.
Forecasts said temperatures were then expected to plummet in the South and across the East Coast, keeping the snow and ice on the roads until early next week.