(CNN) — A massive storm system in the central United States is expected to impact much of a third of the country with snow and freezing rain this weekend, and could cause an ice event that could paralyze parts of Georgia, Virginia and the Carolinas for on Sunday.
More than 65 million people were under winter weather watches Saturday afternoon, the National Weather Service said.
A lot of snow has already fallen in the upper Midwest, and more will fall Saturday morning in Missouri, where snow covered some major highways, transportation officials said.
The storm will turn southeast Saturday night and Sunday with rain, freezing rain and snow before heading northeast Sunday into Monday.
And it’s freezing rain and ice in parts of the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic that may cause the biggest problem for Sunday.
“This is going to be by far the biggest problem we’re going to encounter in the next 48 hours — ice and lots of it,” CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar said Saturday morning.
Snow Forecast: Check these maps to see how much snow is expected in your area.
Parts of northern Georgia and Virginia could see up to 1.2 centimeters of ice, and parts of North and South Carolina could see 1.9 centimeters or more, forecasters said.
The strong winds, along with “the weight of that ice on trees and power lines, are likely to cause widespread power outages,” Chinchar said.
The governors of Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia have declared emergencies, allowing resources to be positioned before the storm arrives.
Snow is also expected to hit several southern cities by Sunday, making travel dangerous in places like Memphis, Nashville, Atlanta and Charlotte.
More than 20 centimeters of snow could fall Sunday through Monday from the southern Appalachian Mountains into the interior of the Northeast.
Heavy snow, including 8 to 14 inches in some areas, fell Friday through Saturday morning across parts of the Dakotas, Minnesota and Iowa.
From there, the system dove into Missouri, Arkansas and Kansas, where it rained and snowed on Saturday. Heavy snow is expected in the Mid-South and in the Tennessee Valley throughout the day.
Localized areas of Tennessee could see snowfall of more than 6 inches from Saturday through Sunday.
The southeast could have a mix of everything
For much of the southeast, this system will start as rain on Saturday.
As temperatures drop rapidly behind a strong cold front, the rain will turn to freezing rain, sleet and eventually snow in many places in the southern Appalachians on Saturday night.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp directed the state Department of Defense to prepare 1,000 National Guard troops to assist in storm response.
In South Carolina, Governor Henry McMaster urged residents to monitor local weather forecasts and take precautions.
The system is expected to move slowly, creating a crippling ice storm that could knock out power to millions of people from northeast Georgia to southern Virginia from Saturday night into early Monday.
Significant icing in the Piedmont of the Carolinas will likely create dangerous travel conditions, power outages and widespread damage to trees, sAccording to the Weather Prediction Center.
Cities including Charlotte, Greenville, Winston-Salem and Greensboro are forecast to see ice accumulations of 0.6 to 1.27 centimeters through Sunday night, along with wind gusts of up to 64 km/h that could topple trees and power lines in the region.
The National Weather Service has issued an ice storm warning for parts of South Carolina, in effect through early Monday, and temperatures are likely to remain below freezing through the start of next week.
“Significant amounts of ice accumulation will make travel dangerous or impossible. Travel is strongly discouraged,” according to the office of the NWS en Greenville.
The NWS office in Greenville, South Carolina is warning that ice dams will become very dangerous along and east of I-85, including Spartanburg, South Carolina, to Salisbury, North Carolina. This includes the entire Charlotte metro area.
In the southern Appalachian Mountains, snow totals will increase as fast as elevation. Asheville, North Carolina, for example, is forecast to rise 20 to 30 centimeters, but could top out at 50 centimeters at elevations above 1,200 meters.
The winter storm in the mid-Atlantic and northeast
The storm will turn northeast toward the East Coast on Sunday and Monday.
Some snow will fall in major metropolitan areas, but a change in rainfall will stop the accumulations.
Washington could get 5 to 10 centimeters, while Philadelphia could get 2 to 4 centimeters. New York and Boston are expected to receive about an inch each.
Heavier snowfall is expected elsewhere, with more than 12 inches expected in some places.
“As is common with this storm track, the Shenandoah Valley into the Alleghenies will be the likely winner in terms of highest snowfall totals,” said Saturday NWS Baltimore. “17 to 25 centimeters is possible, but more than 30 centimeters is not out of the question where heavy bands form.”
Snowfall intensity in the region may be heavy enough to prevent significant icing, but NWS Baltimore warns that untreated surfaces can still lead to dangerous travel conditions where ice builds up.
Most of the accumulated snowfall will occur from Sunday afternoon through Monday morning.
Cities like Charleston, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Syracuse and Burlington, Vermont will see the heaviest snow.
Before the snow event reaches the region, the Northeast will experience frigid temperatures and a dangerous wind chill.
Wind chill alerts are in effect for more than 20 million people through Saturday as temperatures could drop as low as 40 to 42 below zero in parts of the Northeast.
“Dangerously cold wind could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 10 minutes,” warns the NWS.
In addition to the potential for snowfall, strong easterly winds associated with the storm system could cause extensive coastal flooding of up to 3 feet above ground in some areas along the northeast coast at high tide.
The timing of winds shifting from east to south will largely determine the severity of flooding, with moderate flood potential if winds shift before high tide.
What helps the Northeast is that long before most of the snow arrives, there will be very cold air and dangerous wind chills.
“Moderate to locally significant widespread flooding of vulnerable areas near the waterfront and shoreline is possible, including highways, parking lots, parks, lawns, and homes and businesses with basements near the shoreline,” the NWS in New York said on Saturday. .
Flooding could lead to road closures and structural damage along the Atlantic coast.
Allison Chinchar, Chad Myers, Dave Hennen, Monica Garrett, and Haley Brink contributed to this story.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism