It's the South's turn for a taste of foul winter weather

Story highlights

  • Winter storm watch in effect for parts of the South
  • Just a little snow or ice can be enough to cause havoc

(CNN)Wintry weather is a relative thing.

The Northeast is on alert -- urging drivers to stay off roads -- as the fourth storm in three weeks drops snow that in Boston has exceeded 45 inches in February alone.
It takes a fraction of that to get residents in the South into emergency mode. Sometimes, it doesn't even have to snow -- just the possibility of wintry weather is enough for a partial shutdown.
    "Wintry precipitation possible" early this week, the National Weather Service in Atlanta said.
    The Weather Service issued a winter storm watch for northern Georgia, warning of potential snow and ice accumulation on the roads.
    This is likely all it will take to send shoppers to grocery stores, with memories of snow events a year ago in Atlanta and Birmingham, Alabama, that caused major headaches for residents.
    Temperatures dropped in the Atlanta area on Sunday, and even though the forecast suggests the snow/ice mix will likely fall farther north, some school districts closed out of an abundance of caution.
    Also out of an abundance of caution, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for 15 northern Georgia counties and asked state workers in those areas not involved in emergency response to work from home.
    Last year, it took less than 3 inches of snow to paralyze Atlanta, with motorists stranded for more than 20 hours in some cases.
    CNN meteorologist Michael Guy explained the weather: "An area of low pressure will pick up Gulf moisture and collide with the cold air for a major winter event over the next couple of days for areas from Arkansas through Kentucky and Tennessee," he said.
    While last year's debacle has Atlanta's preparations in the spotlight, other parts of the South are bracing for worse weather in the next day or two.
    "We have a difficult task ahead of us over the next 24 hours. Our crews will be out in force, and our primary focus initially will be on the interstate system. We will begin clearing secondary routes as quickly as we can. We will work until the job is done, but this will likely be a sustained effort through Monday into Tuesday. We ask motorists to please limit travel during this period," said Heather Jensen, a spokeswoman with the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
    In New Orleans, authorities announced Mardi Gras parades scheduled for Monday would begin earlier in anticipation of the bad weather.
    Some areas in Kentucky could receive upwards of 10 to 12 inches of snow, Guy said.
    The North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro closed because of "heavy wind damage to trees throughout the park."
    The wind knocked down two trees at the zoo, spokesman Gavin Johnson told CNN.
    "No animals were injured and no buildings or exhibits were damaged," he said.
    Boone, North Carolina, resident Lee Davis reported 2 to 3 inches of snow in his town, via Twitter. The self-described "weather freak" warned followers to heed warnings.
    Residents in other Southern states made preparations, too, from raiding the bread aisles at supermarkets to buying ice melt.