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As he did for parts of Georgia, President Barack Obama declared a disaster in South Carolina, opening the way for federal aid.

For the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast, the heavy weather was the latest in an unending drumbeat of storms that have depleted cities’ salt supplies and caused school systems to run out of snow days.

Washington, D.C., could see around 8 inches of snow, as could Boston. New York City could receive 6 inches. The Philadelphia area could get a foot or more, and Portland, Maine, may see 8 or 9 inches.

In Atlanta, which was caught badly unprepared by the last storm, area schools announced even before the first drop of sleet fell that they would be closed on Tuesday and Wednesday. Schools were also closed for Thursday. Many businesses in the corporate capital of the South shut down, too.

The scene was markedly different from the one Jan. 28, when thousands of children were stranded all night in schools by less than 3 inches of snow and countless drivers abandoned their cars after getting stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic for hours and hours.

“I think some folks would even say they were a little trigger-happy to go ahead and cancel schools (Tuesday), as well as do all the preparation they did,” said Matt Altmix, who was out walking his dog in Atlanta on Wednesday. “But it’s justified.”

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory urged people to charge their cellphones and find batteries for radios and flashlights because the storm could bring nearly a foot of snow in places such as Charlotte.

“Stay smart. Don’t put your stupid hat on at this point in time. Protect yourself. Protect your family. Protect your neighbors,” McCrory said.

In a warning issued early Wednesday, the National Weather Service called the storm across the South “catastrophic … crippling … paralyzing … choose your adjective.”

Meteorologist Eli Jacks noted that three-quarters of an inch of ice would be catastrophic anywhere.

However, the South is particularly vulnerable: Many trees are allowed to hang over power lines for the simple reason that people don’t normally have to worry about ice and snow snapping off limbs.

Three people were killed when an ambulance careened off an icy West Texas road and caught fire. On Tuesday, four people died in weather-related traffic accidents in North Texas, including a Dallas firefighter who was knocked from an I-20 ramp and fell 50 feet. In Mississippi, two traffic deaths were reported as well as in North Carolina.

Also, a Georgia man apparently died of hypothermia after spending hours outside during the storm, a coroner said.

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Associated Press writers Christina A. Cassidy, Ray Henry, Phillip Lucas, Jeff Martin and Peter Prengaman in Atlanta; Martha Waggoner, Michael Biesecker and Emery P. Dalesio in Raleigh, N.C.; Bruce Smith in Charleston, S.C.; Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Ala.; and Russ Bynum in Savannah, Ga., contributed to this report.