CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With a winter storm bearing down on the South, Stuart Hall’s regular run for groceries looked like something out of the just concluded holiday shopping season.
Hall said the parking lot of the store near his home in Cary, North Carolina, is usually fairly empty when he shops so late in the week. But across the South, many were stocking up on eggs, bread, milk and other staples ahead of the storm’s expected arrival late Friday amid threats of snow, sleet and freezing rain across the Southeast.
“Today, it was like mall shopping during the holidays. People going up and down the lanes looking for a spot,” he said. “As I walked in, I jokingly asked if there was any food and the clerk just laughed.”
Sherrill Suitt Craig went shopping at a store near her home in north Raleigh, but she had to leave for a grocer in nearby Wake Forest because her initial stop was too crowded.
“I have no idea why, but people are acting like complete jackasses when they hear that there is snow in the forecast,” Craig said. “I was just doing my regular shopping.”
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for part of Friday and Saturday from eastern Alabama through north Georgia, including Atlanta, and into the Carolinas and part of Virginia.
Schools canceled classes in several states and Alabama and Georgia issued emergency declarations ahead of the storm, which was already being blamed for one road fatality Thursday in Kentucky.
Authorities said a man died after his pickup slid off a snow-slickened road. Daniel Noble, 55, rounded a curve in his pickup truck and slid off into a rail fence about 14 miles south of the city of Jackson, authorities said, adding there was about an inch of new snow on the road.
School districts in Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia either closed or called off classes early as snow began falling there Thursday and more cancellations were planned Friday, including by school systems in central Alabama amid the threat of up to 3 inches of snow and sleet.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley issued a state of emergency that will open its emergency operations center Friday morning and put 300 Alabama National Guard soldiers at the ready to help if needed.
In North Carolina, Saturday’s ceremonies formally marking the inauguration of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper have been canceled. Activities scheduled for Friday will go on as planned.
Some parts of North Carolina could receive 4 inches or more of snow and there’s a “slight risk” of 8 inches or more of snow in eastern North Carolina and southeast Virginia, according to the advisory of the federal government’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.
Its forecast called for 4 inches or more of snow for parts of Georgia, South Carolina and the Piedmont region and foothills of central and western North Carolina. The warning for central North Carolina called for a mixture of snow and sleet with up to 5 inches locally and as much as 7 inches from the central piedmont to the northern coastal plain.
Mike Schichtel, lead forecaster at the Maryland center, said the storm threat is significant for the Southeast.
“If you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle and you think you’re safe, you’re not,” Schichtel said. “Take it very seriously and adjust your travel plans accordingly.”
To the west, heavy snow and strong winds have raised the danger of avalanches in the Colorado high country. A storm tracking across central California is dumping significant snow on the mountains, while a winter storm has already coated northern Utah with 9 inches of snow, forcing officials to cancel or delay classes Thursday.
The National Weather Service said snow accumulating for several weeks in Boise, Idaho, reached 15 inches Thursday and broke the previous snow-depth record of 13 inches set twice in the mid-1980s.