By Amanda Watts and Jennifer Henderson, CNN
Updated: Sat, 15 Jan 2022 03:11:43 GMT
As a massive winter storm takes aim starting Friday at much of the eastern US, officials from the Southeast to New England are preparing for what could be crippling ice and heavy snow.
More than 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.
Check if snow is forecast for your region
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 its path are getting ready for the winter blast:
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp issued an order Friday declaring a state of emergency for dozens of counties in preparation for the upcoming winter storm, which is expected to bring freezing rain, ice and snow to the region.
Among the dangers parts of the state could see is the accumulation of black ice on roadways and powerful wind gusts that could exacerbate potential damages, including power outages and downed trees, according to the order.
During a media briefing earlier Friday, Kemp said the state was deploying resources to protect residents against severe weather and, if needed, to also assist neighboring states.
Kemp urged Georgians to be "weather aware" this weekend, adding, "you can help us minimize risks, reduce the time it takes to recover and most importantly keep everyone safe."
Pretreatment of roads began Friday morning and will take about 18 hours to complete, Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry said Friday. Interstates will be double-treated.
When pretreatment stops, plowing and spreading of salt and gravel will begin. Roughly 19,500 miles of roadway have to be treated and plowed, McMurry said.
A day earlier, he warned the state expects to see downed trees, limbs and power lines, and urged motorists to "take this storm very seriously and stay off the roads."
"There's still a lot of uncertainty with the level of this storm, but it is pretty clear that we are going to experience a significant weather event in some parts of Georgia over the weekend," said James Stallings, the director of the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency.
Gov. Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency Friday afternoon, and urged South Carolinians to monitor conditions and take winter safety precautions.
"South Carolina will be impacted by a major winter storm this weekend, likely beginning Sunday morning," McMaster said in a statement issued by his office. "There is a potential for very dangerous conditions caused by accumulations of ice and snow, which will likely result in power outages across the state."
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 deicing 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.
Virginia transportation officials said they are dedicating more than 100 snow plows and other pieces of heavy equipment to a 50-mile stretch of Interstate 95 ahead of this weekend's storm.
"We want to execute and make sure that travel continues through the whole region," Virginia Department of Transportation spokesperson Kelly Hannon told CNN.
Some trucks will be focused on specific interchanges in three northern Virginia counties, including the city of Fredericksburg, Hannon said.
The state's transportation department will also employ six heavy-duty wrecker tow trucks that can remove tractor trailers from the highway. More than a dozen department employees will be driving on the interstate to monitor and report any deteriorating conditions, Hannon added.
The department is urging drivers not to travel on Sunday, Hannon said, as the agency is expecting the storm to be a mixed event of snow, sleet and freezing rain.
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."