- Associated Press - Monday, January 27, 2014

ATLANTA (AP) - A blast of freezing precipitation expected to arrive Tuesday could scatter snow and ice across Georgia from metro Atlanta to southern parts of the state that are normally immune to winter precipitation.

Much of the state was placed under a winter storm watch for Tuesday and Wednesday. The National Weather Service said cities including Atlanta, Americus, Columbus and Macon could see up to 2 inches of snow with the first flakes at midmorning Tuesday. Farther east, 3 inches of snow or more was possible in places including Vidalia, Dublin, Milledgeville and Sylvania. There was also a threat of treacherous conditions farther south, where freezing rain and sleet could form up to ½ inch of ice in the Savannah area.

“The snowfall amounts are going to matter very little in this situation because of the ice potential,” said Jason Deese, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Peachtree City. “Some parts of the state may end up seeing the greatest impact just because they get more ice than snow.”

Forecasters were predicting snow and ice from Texas to the Carolinas by mid-week as precipitation moving in from the south met with cold air already chilling the region.

Computer models were having a hard time predicting exactly what areas would get hit and how much snow and ice to expect, Deese said. But it looked like few parts of Georgia could expect to be bypassed completely.

Citing recent cold weather that led to an increase in the demand and price for propane, Gov. Nathan Deal and state Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black signed an executive order Monday blocking propane providers from charging excessive amounts.

“Livestock and poultry farmers, along with food processors, depend on propane to continue business,” Black said in a statement. “We are doing everything possible to work with the propane suppliers and agribusinesses to meet the challenges we are currently facing.” Last week, the threat of a propane shortage in Alabama prompted Gov. Robert Bentley to declare a state of emergency.

Delta Air Lines spokeswoman Betsy Talton said that 1,850 flights operated by the airline and connecting airlines would be canceled beginning at 11 a.m. Tuesday. Of that number, she said more than 840 had Atlanta connections.

Travelers were being offered opportunities to make one-time changes to their itineraries free of charge if they planned to travel through eight of the Southeastern states forecasters expect the storm to cover, Talton said.

About 80 Southwest Airlines flights scheduled to depart from Atlanta on Tuesday had already been canceled as of Monday night, spokesman Brad Hawkins said. He added that the number represents about half of the airline’s flights departing Atlanta, and affected passengers had already been notified. The airline has canceled about 360 scheduled departures systemwide, Hawkins said.

On Monday morning, the Weather Service expanded its winter storm watch area farther north to include metro Atlanta, where roads could start getting icy in time for the evening rush hour Tuesday. Georgia Department of Transportation spokesman Mark McKinnon said crews in the Atlanta area were ready.

“Our equipment is already prepared from the previous close calls we have had this year,” McKinnon said. “So all we need to do now is watch the weather and based on that, we will decide when and where to deploy our crews. “

City of Atlanta officials said in a statement that they’re planning to open a recreation center in west Atlanta’s Adamsville neighborhood as a temporary warming shelter until Wednesday afternoon. Officials said they were planning to pre-treat priority areas and had 700 tons of a sand and gravel mix to treat roads, along with 30 spreaders and 40 snow plows. Two-hundred miles of “priority route roadways” in the city include 40 bridges and routes that lead to six hospitals, city officials said.

There’s also a chance of freezing rain and sleet across southern Georgia from Albany to Alma.

Forecasters warned icy roads could make driving dangerous in much of the state, especially overnight Tuesday and into Wednesday. And frozen tree limbs falling onto power lines could cause widespread power outages in some areas.

Georgia Department of Transportation crews in southwest Georgia spent Monday hitching snow plows to dump trucks and loading some with a rock and salt mixture. The salt is expected to melt ice accumulations and the rocks will serve as an abrasive surface on the ice to give tires traction, said GDOT Tifton District Maintenance Engineer Stacy Aultman. Some GDOT officials are urging drivers to stay off the roads Tuesday night if possible.

“We have increasing confidence a winter storm is going to affect portions of Georgia,” Deese said. “It’s just a matter of which portions of Georgia.”

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