As Mother Nature threatens to paralyze Georgia and parts of the Carolinas with 2 inches of snow and three-quarters of an inch of ice, Western New York is about to enjoy a midwinter reprieve.
After a bone-chilling night of zero or lower, sunshine is forecast across our region today and Thursday, and temperatures are expected to climb to the upper 20s for the first time this week.
The big storm that’s predicted to sweep northeast through the Appalachians and the East Coast for the next three days will miss us completely.
The only inconvenience will be for travelers heading to or from Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Charlotte and Atlanta in the next days. Flights to and from those cities from Buffalo Niagara International Airport may be delayed or canceled.
Delta canceled nearly 2,200 flights Tuesday and Wednesday, most of them in Atlanta.
While only light rain fell in Atlanta on Tuesday, cities 40 miles northwest saw 2 to 3 inches of snow. The rain was expected to turn into sleet and freezing rain overnight.
The Atlanta area and other parts of the South are particularly vulnerable because there are so many trees and limbs hanging over power lines. When the ice builds up on them, limbs snap and fall, knocking out power.
More than 200 utility vehicles from Florida, North Carolina and other Southern states gathered in a parking lot near one of the grandstands at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
The state had more than 22,000 tons of salt, 70,000 gallons of brine, 45,000 tons of gravel and brought in 180 tons of additional salt and sand. The goal was to make sure at least two interstate lanes were available in each direction. Then material would be used on the most heavily used roads off the highways. Officials were also considering rerouting traffic in extreme circumstances.
Hundreds of Georgia National Guard troops were on standby in case evacuations were needed at hospitals or nursing homes, and more than 70 shelters were set to open.
President Obama declared a state of emergency in Georgia, ordering federal agencies to help the state and local response during the storm. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said a priority for that request was generators.
Metro Atlanta resembled a ghost town. Schools were closed, and grocery store shelves were bare of milk and bread.
Around the Deep South, slick roads were causing problems. In North Texas, at least four people died in traffic accidents on icy roads, including a Dallas firefighter who was knocked from an Interstate 20 ramp and fell 50 feet, according to a police report.
In northeastern Alabama, two National Guard wreckers were dispatched to help clear jackknifed 18-wheelers on Interstate 65. Gov. Robert Bentley said one lesson learned from the storm two weeks ago was to get those wreckers organized earlier.
Parts of northeast Mississippi could see up to 4 inches of snow. South Carolina, which hasn’t seen a major ice storm in nearly a decade, could get a quarter to three-quarters of an inch of ice and as much as 8 inches of snow in some areas.
Meanwhile, Western New York has gotten so much snow this winter, it’s become worth bragging about. A report Tuesday said Buffalo now is the second snowiest city in the U.S. this season. Our total of 94.4 inches has surpassed the previous No. 2 – Grand Rapids, Mich., with 92.2. Who’s No. 1? Erie, Pa., with 107.5.
Nevertheless, our lead seems secure in the annual quest for the Golden Snowball Award, given to the upstate New York city that’s the snowiest. The perennial winner, Syracuse, in second place with 81 inches so far, shouldn’t see any fallout from this storm, either.
Forecasters say Western and Central New York will stay mostly sunny and dry today and Thursday.
Meteorologists expect we won’t start adding to our snow totals again until Friday, when the next arctic cold front arrives, although accumulation probably will be light except in lake-effect areas south of Buffalo and along the Lake Ontario shore. Temperatures are supposed to fall back into the teens and single digits.
A warm-up back to around 30 is due for the Presidents Day holiday on Monday, with a chance of more snow. It should be just right for skiing.
Anyone hoping for a thaw should have their wishes fulfilled by the middle of next week. The long-range outlook is promising a shift in the jet stream that will send mild Pacific air straight across the nation’s midsection. After a taste of that, it will feel like spring is just around the corner.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. email: firstname.lastname@example.org