As a massive winter storm takes aim starting Friday at much of the eastern US, officials across states from the Southeast to New England are preparing for what could be crippling ice and heavy snow.
Over 50 million people from the Midwest eastward are under winter weather alerts as predicted rain, snow, sleet or freezing rain threatens dangerous road conditions and frigid temperatures.
The storm is due to dive into the lower Mississippi Valley region by Friday night, then meander Saturday across the Southeast before heading north Sunday and Monday along the Eastern Seaboard.
Here’s how leaders of some states along that path are getting ready for the winter blast:
Georgia’s Transportation Department is “preparing and coordinating brine operations, equipment, materials and staffing plans to respond to the pending threat by treating hundreds of interstate and state route(s),” it said in a statement.
“We anticipate downed trees, limbs and powerlines. It is critical that motorists take this storm system very seriously and stay off the roads through the end of the event to give our crews the space needed to work,” Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry said Thursday in the statement.
“As the forecast has evolved, it has become more likely that a significant area of Georgia will experience icy conditions as part of the incoming storm system,” he said. “Ice adds a level of complexity, as well as increased danger, for our crews and motorists.”
South Carolina’s Transportation Department “has initiated its winter storm operations plan to counter a ‘worst-case scenario’ of winter weather conditions,” according to a statement Wednesday. Crews planned to use anti-icing pretreatments as early as Thursday on priority roads and bridges.
Residents were urged to stay off roads to allow crews to work safely, Transportation Secretary Christy Hall said in the statement. “The safest solution is for drivers to stay off the roads if at all possible. If you must drive, slow down and watch for crews performing de-icing and plowing operations,” Hall said.
“We are monitoring the possibility of winter storm weather in the Upstate and Midlands region this weekend,” Gov. Henry McMaster tweeted Thursday. “Residents in these areas should start monitoring local weather forecasts and prepare safety precautions ahead of this weekend.”
Labor shortages in North Carolina portend longer response times for clearing roads as the winter storm bears down, the state Department of Transportation said Friday.
Gov. Roy Cooper signed a state of emergency Thursday to activate state resources ahead of the storm and allow for federal reimbursement, if conditions allow, according to a news release.
“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 statement.
“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.”
“We expect this storm to have a significant impact in many parts of Virginia,” Gov. Ralph Northam said in a statement Friday, his last full day in office before handing the reins to Glenn Youngkin.
“Declaring a state of emergency now allows our emergency responders to prepare, and to move supplies and equipment where they expect to need them the most,” he said. “This also gives Governor-elect Youngkin the ability to respond to any storm needs swiftly.”
“I urge Virginians to take this storm seriously and make preparations now.”
Parts of Virginia are still dealing with last week’s winter storm that left motorists stranded on Interstate 95, including restoring power and removing debris. “This upcoming weather system is likely to include additional downed trees, more electrical outages, and significant impacts on travel conditions,” Northam’s office said.
A state of preparedness has been declared for all 55 counties in West Virginia due to the winter storm, according to a statement Friday from Gov. Jim Justice‘s office. It gives agencies preparing for and responding to the storm “posturing personnel and resources to respond quickly should an emergency develop.”
The state emergency management agency “monitors for any events that may threaten the citizens of West Virginia, including severe weather threats. We’re prepared at all times to respond should there be an emergency,” its director, G.E. McCabe, said in the statement.
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont directed his state to “severe cold weather protocol” starting at noon ET Friday through Wednesday — his second such act this year.
“It’s looking like we are going to see another blast of arctic temperatures moving into the state, followed by the potential for a winter storm,” Lamont said Friday in a news release. “These conditions can be extremely dangerous if someone is outdoors for extended periods of time, which is why we are urging anyone in need to seek shelter.”
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