NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — The Carolinas and Virginia were bracing for more winter weather on Thursday, with officials urging drivers to stay off potentially icy roads and schools canceling classes in coastal areas that don't frequently see frozen precipitation.
The governors of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia each declared states of emergency ahead of the storm system that was forecast to blow in as mixed precipitation on Thursday, followed by a round of snow on Friday night into Saturday. The winter blast could ice over a large swath of eastern North Carolina and the northeastern corner of South Carolina, while dumping snow around Norfolk, Virginia, according to the National Weather Service.
The forecast prompted Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin to declare a state of emergency Thursday that will remain in effect through Saturday. His executive order allows the state greater flexibility in mobilizing people and resources to prepare and respond.
“I urge all Virginians to monitor their local weather forecasts and take personal safety precautions to ensure their safety and the safety of their families,” Youngkin said in a statement that called on Virginians to stay off the road during hazardous conditions.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed a state of emergency Wednesday ahead of the storm, the second to hit the state in a week. He said Thursday that 114 National Guard troops were staging in central and eastern North Carolina to prepare to move to the affected areas. He said ice accumulations could cause extended power outages and urged people to look out for their neighbors as lows dip below freezing in the coming days.
“We’re a little more concerned about this one because it’s going to be so cold Friday and Saturday night, and if there are power outages, then we are concerned about maybe some families who can’t stay warm,” he told reporters.
In South Carolina, where Gov. Henry McMaster also declared a state of emergency, schools and government offices around Charleston and other places that don't see much frozen precipitation closed or announced shortened hours Friday. Freezing rain, sleet and snow were expected to start spreading across the state around sunrise. And utilities in the northeastern part of the state warned major power outages were possible.
An ice storm warning was issued in northeastern South Carolina and southeastern North Carolina, where rain was expected to change Thursday night to mixed precipitation that includes freezing rain. The area could receive up to a quarter inch (0.6 centimeters) of ice before Sunday.
An initial wave of snow could dump several inches on parts of eastern Virginia and North Carolina on Thursday. A more significant round of snow is expected to arrive Friday night to Saturday morning. Parts of the area could get 3 to 5 inches (8 to 13 centimeters) of snow, according to the National Weather Service. Areas around Norfolk could see more than 5 inches (13 centimeters).
In northeastern North Carolina, Perquimans County school officials noted the rarity of snow in the area in announcing schools would be closed on Friday. Forecasters said the area could see several inches of snow.
“It is not often that we get to experience snow in Northeastern NC and we hope this will be a day that you can enjoy with your children," the school district's website said. "Stay safe, stay warm, and enjoy the snow!”
Around Wilmington, North Carolina, New Hanover County Schools said it was canceling Friday athletics and after-school activities and holding classes remotely because of icy conditions. Nearby Brunswick County canceled school altogether Friday due to the weather.
To the north in Virginia, Virginia Beach also canceled after-school activities and went to an asynchronous schedule for Friday. Citing the snow forecast, Norfolk Public Schools canceled class, adding the admonishment: “Stay Safe!”
Multiple school districts in Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia also closed Thursday due to slick roadways.