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Rapid snowfall blankets southeast; icy conditions expected

By Holly Yan, CNN
  • More than 4,000 power outages are reported in Mississippi
  • In Georgia, some drivers abandon their vehicles in the snow
  • States of emergency are declared in Louisiana, Alabama and Georgia
  • More than 1,670 flights are canceled for Monday, including many to and from Atlanta

(CNN) -- As kids in several southern states reveled in school cancellations Monday, travelers bemoaned slow -- and sometimes immobilizing -- conditions in the air and on the ground.

A major storm system is rolling across the southeastern United States, bringing snow and ice to areas that don't normally see heavy winter precipitation. Winter storm warnings were in effect Monday for parts of Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas, and parts of southern Alabama were under an ice storm warning.

Graham, North Carolina already saw 9 inches of snow on Sunday, CNN meteorologist Rob Marciano said, and 6 inches fell in Greenville, South Carolina. Freezing rain is expected in parts of the Southeast on Monday afternoon.

CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said below-freezing temperatures through Tuesday could leave trees and power lines across the South with a heavy coating of ice, which could cause power outages.

Many southerners were surprised to see a rapid onslaught of snow. At least 4 inches of snow fell in just a couple of hours in Atlanta, CNN meteorologist Ivan Cabrera said.

Chuck Meadows dodged "slipping and sliding" vehicles on Interstate 20 on his way home from a friend's house Sunday night.

"It was traumatic ... the near misses," Meadows, a native Atlantan, said Monday morning. "A large pickup slid toward me on the highway before I decided to get off the highway. There was a hill that a number of people got stuck on."

Soon afterward, Meadows himself got stuck near his subdivision. He, like many others in the city, ended up ditching his car in the snow and walking home.

Farther north, in Kennesaw, Georgia, Sarah DeRoch watched a pickup truck get stuck on her cul-de-sac.

"It made the mistake of stopping in the snow," said DeRoch, a native of the Chicago area who, like her husband, is used to heavy snowfall. "We went out to give it some pointers" before the vehicle was eventually towed by another truck, she said.

Meanwhile, her daughter Gwyneth was bursting with anticipation at a canceled school day.

"She's been asking me every five minutes, 'Did they close the schools?'" DeRoch said.

In addition to schools, hundreds of flights were canceled as the Southeast's winter storm began to have a domino effect on travel across the country.

AirTran Airways canceled 270 flights for Monday, most of them heading into Atlanta, spokesman Christopher White said. There only will be a handful of arrivals and departures, he said.

Anthony Black, a spokesman for Delta Air Lines, said the airline has planned "approximately 1,400 Delta and Delta Connection flight cancellations system-wide Monday as the storm is at its peak -- approximately 25% of all planned flights for the day."

Atlantic Southeast Airlines spokesman Jarek Beem said the storm had forced a number of cancellations Sunday through Tuesday. He declined to provide a specific number.

In preparation for wintry conditions, governors in Louisiana, Alabama and Georgia declared states of emergency.

"We face a serious storm that will have an impact all across Alabama," Gov. Bob Riley said in a statement. He advised motorists to stay off the roads.

Meanwhile, snow moved into the Northeast, but the region was spared a repeat of the late December blizzard that virtually shut down large cities such as New York and Philadelphia. Emergency management officials were able to quickly recover from the comparably light dusting of snow that began blanketing the region Friday.

By Monday morning, the power company Entergy reported about 4,000 outages in Mississippi. In Georgia, at least 600 electricity customers lost power in several counties due to heavy snowfall on tree limbs that subsequently fell on power lines, according to the Georgia Electric Membership Corporation.

But nothing, it seems, fazes DeRoch, the Georgia mother who seemingly has a contingency plan for all situations.

"If the power goes out," she said, "you can put your refrigerated stuff outside."

CNN's Andy Rose and Nick Valencia contributed to this report.