60M Americans in path of massive winter storm; snow and ice to cause major travel disruptions

A winter storm began to dump snow across the upper Midwest on Friday as it made its way toward the South and eventually the East Coast, promising weekend weather havoc for millions of people.

As of Friday afternoon, more than 60 million Americans were under some level of winter weather alert, according to the National Weather Service. The alerts stretched from North Dakota to as far south as Georgia, then up into the Northeast in Pennsylvania.

Major travel disruptions are expected with the storm throughout the Martin Luther King Jr., holiday weekend, AccuWeather said.

The storm is known as a "Saskatchewan screamer," AccuWeather said, as it originated in that Canadian province. Meanwhile, the Weather Channel has named it "Winter Storm Izzy."

After pasting the Upper Midwest with up to a foot of snow in some areas on Friday, the storm is forecast to dive into the South on Saturday and into Sunday, spreading snow into cities such as Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee, and Charlotte, North Carolina.

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Memphis is forecast to see as much as 3 inches of snow, while up to 5 inches could fall in Nashville, the weather service said.

Atlanta is also in the path of the storm, which could end the city's nearly four-year streak without measurable snow.

Ice will be a particular concern with the storm in portions of the Carolinas. A weather service forecast office in South Carolina said "power outages and tree damage are likely due to the ice. Travel could be nearly impossible. Additionally, strong wind gusts may add more stress to ice-covered trees."

The storm’s last stops will be the mid-Atlantic and Northeast after it takes a sharp turn to the north-northeast along the Eastern Seaboard on Sunday and into Monday.

Heavy snow is forecast to wallop portions of the region – especially the Appalachians and interior Northeast – with as much as 18 inches of snow by the time the storm winds down late Monday.

The best chance for heavy snow is expected to be north and west of the Boston-Washington Interstate 95 corridor, from parts of Northern Virginia to Maine, Weather.com said.

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Virginia declares state of emergency

In Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency Friday as the storm approached. State police are warning people to avoid travel during the holiday weekend due to the storm, just days after a previous storm halted traffic on part of Interstate 95.

State police are preparing for this latest round of winter weather and will have all available troopers on patrol to respond as quickly as possible to traffic crashes, emergencies and disabled motorists, according to a statement.

Virginia state officials came under intense criticism following a winter storm last week. Many motorists reported getting little assistance while they were stuck in gridlock on I-95, which according to officials began after a commercial vehicle jackknifed.

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Winter storm preparedness checklist

The National Weather Service recommends you keep the following items in your car if you're traveling:

  • Mobile phone, charger, batteries

  • Blankets/sleeping bags

  • Flashlight with extra batteries

  • First-aid kit

  • Knife

  • High-calorie, non-perishable food

  • Extra clothing to keep dry

  • Large empty can to use as emergency toilet, tissues, toilet paper and paper towels

  • Small can and waterproof matches to melt snow for drinking water

  • Sack of sand or cat litter for traction

  • Shovel

  • Windshield scraper and brush

  • Tool kit

  • Tow rope

  • Battery booster cables

  • Water container

  • Candle and matches to provide light and in an emergency, lifesaving heat.

  • Compass and road maps, don't depend on mobile devices with limited battery life

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Winter storm update: Snow, ice to affect 60 million across East, South