(NewsNation Now) — A winter storm packing heavy snow and strong winds engulfed parts of the U.S. Southeast and mid-Atlantic states, forcing federal offices and schools to close as it threatened to make travel dangerous and knock out power.
Severe weather warnings were in effect from Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia, and into Washington and Philadelphia, where 4 to 8 inches of snow and 40 mile-per-hour winds were forecasts, the National Weather Service said.
Some parts of the region could get 2 inches an hour and a total of a foot of wet snow from the storm throughout the day, the weather service warned.
The snow is set to cause dangerous travel conditions and potentially leave homes and businesses without electricity throughout the region.
Tornado and flood watches were also in effect for coastal North Carolina where heavy rains and damaging winds were expected. In Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency and tapped the Virginia National Guard for some additional help.
In Kentucky, intense winter storms caused major traffic disruptions, leaving many travelers stranded as major highways shut down Thursday.
Father Jim Sichko was stranded on a Lexington, Kentucky highway for around seven hours.
“It’s still kind of like a parking lot here”, Sichko said. “Just trying to do our best to stay warm and to realize that we’re probably in for the long haul”.
Kentucky Gov Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency on Thursday evening, saying that the severe weather was “affecting travel on major interstates, and state and local roadways as well as causing power outages and damage to public infrastructure and private properties”.
The Washington and Baltimore areas, parts of central and southern Maryland, and portions of northern Virginia could see 2 to 4 inches, forecasters said.
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a snow emergency as public transportation in the city of 700,000 people was operating at a reduced schedule.
Massachusetts is expected to have 8 inches or more from the year’s first snowstorm, and as a precaution, Gov. Charlie Baker urged residents to either work from home or use public transportation so highways were free of traffic and could be easily cleared.
Winter weather advisories and warnings have been issued for much of New Jersey, as well as for all five boroughs of New York City, areas north of the city and Long Island. All of the advisories and warnings were set to expire by noon Friday.
From late Thursday through Friday afternoon, 4 to 7 inches of snow is expected in parts of central and southern New Hampshire, and south-central and southwest Maine, according to the weather service.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.