In Georgia, more than 20 school systems closed ahead of the snow as the National Weather Service in Atlanta/Peachtree City predicted a possible snowfall of 2 to 4 inches and issued a winter storm warning for the north and central parts of the state.
Even a light dusting of snow can create panic in Atlanta. In January 2014, just 2 inches of snow led to gridlock across the sprawling metropolis, preventing salt trucks and plows from traversing the city. Thousands of students and commuters were stranded, and motorists were stuck on icy highways for as long as 16 hours.
As a thin layer of snow began to coat Atlanta rooftops late Friday morning, businesses and schools raced to close early. Roads across the city clogged well before rush hour.
Gale Davis, a 47-year-old insurance agent, was driving home from his office when he got an automated call from the principal of Hawthorne Elementary School urging parents to pick up their children at noon. He got the call at 11:58 a.m. As luck would have it, he was nearby and able to scramble to the school to ferry his 6- and 8-year-olds home.
"I'm now watching my kids have a snowball fight," he said Friday afternoon from his home in northeast Atlanta. "My wife hasn't made it home yet. She's stuck in traffic."
On Interstate 285, the highway that loops around Atlanta, a sign warned motorists that it could take 71 minutes to travel 6 miles.
By Friday afternoon, more than 550 flights were delayed at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the busiest airport in the world. A host of institutions, including Emory University and Zoo Atlanta, closed. Even Snow Mountain, a 400-foot tubing hill that bills itself as a "winter wonderland full of real snow," shut down.
As snowflakes the size of quarters dropped across Atlanta on Friday afternoon, meteorologists predicted the region could see another 2 to 4 inches of snow. With temperatures expected to sink below freezing after dusk, they warned that black ice could make roads hazardous and urged residents to limit travel to emergency situations.
The cold weather is forecast to move north over the weekend, with the National Weather Service issuing winter weather advisories for parts of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. Two to 4 inches of snow are expected in New York City, prompting the city's Department of Emergency Management to issue a travel advisory urging commuters to be extra careful when driving, walking or biking.
"Winter has come early, and we don't want anyone to be caught off-guard," New York City Emergency Management Commissioner Joseph Esposito said in a statement.
(Jarvie, a special correspondent, reported from Atlanta. Staff writer Kaleem reported from Jackson, Miss.)
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