Rain began turning into snow Thursday afternoon in Raleigh, N.C., officially bringing an end the snow drought in the central portion of the state.
By Thursday evening, the snow had spread across more of the region, including Greenville, S.C., and Richmond, Va.
Despite deicing efforts at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, 230 flights at the airport have been canceled and another 300 flights delayed, according to FlightAware.
By 7:45 p.m. EST, nearly 12,000 customers were without power in the state, according to PowerOutage.US.
The inclement weather also lead to the early closing of Mecklenburg County Board of Elections early voting sites and other county-sponsored evening programs.
By 6:45 p.m. EST, at least 4 inches of snow had fallen over Waynesville, N.C., and Mt. LeConte, Tenn. Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. have combined for a total of 2.7 inches of snow this winter.
Earlier in the day, the state ramped up preparations to mitigate as many hazards as possible as the rain and snow moved in. For many areas, that has meant school being canceled, businesses being closed and residents staying inside. As the storm progressed into Thursday night, North Carolina school districts announced delays or closings for Friday as well.
On Thursday morning, Gov. Roy Cooper said 29 school districts in the state would be closed for the day while 55 others were releasing students early in advance of the snow.
Because the total number of days since the last measurable snowfall in much of the state stood at 437 days, excitement for the snow abounded among residents and students, such as the ones running to the window at McNair Elementary School in Browns Summit, N.C., to see the flakes falling.
"Naturally, as a Southern person, you're excited because it's snow and we don't normally have it," Rayna Yvars, a Raleigh resident told AccuWeather national reporter Bill Wadell. "But at the same, the whole state shuts down."
Others, such as Jenny Berry, said they never know what to expect in February, as one year the weather might allow for time on the beach and another year could bring snow.
|(AccuWeather / Bill Waddell)|
"Oh, I love snow, I just don't like the ice that follows," Raleigh resident Sam Regaldo said. "It just melts a little, then it freezes again."
Despite the excitement, however, officials urged people to take the warnings seriously and prepare for what could be a messy end to the week.
The last time North Carolina received extensive snowfall, hundreds of accidents swept the state, thousands of power outages left the state in the dark and three fatalities were tied to the storm.
Preparations for the snow began days ago Jason Dunigan, a Wake County Maintenance Engineer, said.
|Jason Dunigan, the Wake County Maintenance engineer, spoke with AccuWeather's Bill Wadell about the region's snow preparation. (AccuWeather/ Bill Wadell)|
"This past week, we put the tanks on and made the decision to first hit hot spots like bridges and overpasses, so we loaded the trucks up [on Tuesday and Wednesday]," Dunigan told Wadell. "Started hitting bridges, hot spots, overpasses and exit ramps then the forecast changed from 1 inch to 3 inches, so we made the call to hit all of our bare pavement routes."
Dunigan added that trucks hit the road by 11 on Thursday morning, with an extra crew of contracted drivers coming in later in the day.
"There's definitely going to be some slick spots because temperatures are going to fall to 26, 27 degrees by [Friday] morning," Dunigan said. "We're just going to be here, we're going to be here all night long and throughout the morning ... we'll be ready for those."
"The entire state is under either a winter storm advisory or warning through tomorrow morning," Cooper said. "This winter storm will affect most parts of North Carolina. Effects could be minor in many places but will be more significant in other places. We expect the heavy snow after sunset."
Snow accumulation totals are expected to be in the 3- to 6-inch range for many places with some spots possibly picking up as much as 8 inches, but Cooper pointed to whiteout conditions near the coast as a weather threat of specific concern.
"We can expect whiteout conditions on the coast due to heavy snows and gusty winds," Cooper said. "Snowy roads can be deadly if you aren't careful ... Our Department of Transportation crews have been preparing since earlier this week. The State Highway Patrol troopers are ready; they're out on the roads to assist motorists and keep the traffic moving. And you can help them by staying off the roads when conditions deteriorate."
Glenn McNeill, commander of the State Highway Patrol, also urged people to stay off the streets come dusk.
"Troopers have been positioned mobile in moments notice in the areas we expect heavy snowfall accumulation," McNeill said. "Avoid traveling if at all possible... Right now, it's beautiful outside, so please don't let your guard down, because that will change come nightfall."
|North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper briefed reporters on Thursday about preparations state and local officials were taking ahead of a winter storm that was expected to bring measurable snow to much of the Tarheel State. (AccuWeather / Bill Waddell)|
For a state which hasn't seen measurable snow since Dec. 10, 2018, every precautionary measure is necessary. The lack of icy conditions will hopefully keep power outages at a minimum, but gusty winds could cause some issues.
Forecasters expect the day's tumultuous precipitation to begin with rain before succumbing to the stormy weather, which has crawled northeastward.
Reports and footage of snowfall from eastern Tennessee and northern Georgia trickled in throughout Thursday morning. In Crossville, Tenn., snow made for slick lanes on Interstate 40 while elevated surfaces in the area measured 2 inches of accumulation.
North of the Alabama border, in Cornersville, Tenn., 1 inch of snow was recorded in grassy areas.