ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 29: Cars sit on the side of Interstate 75 in icy conditions January 29, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. Thousands of motorists were stranded, many overnight, as a winter storm dropped three inches of snow, and ice made driving hazardous. (Photo by Scott Cunninghaml/Getty Images)
Scott Cunninghaml/Getty Images
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 29: Cars sit on the side of Interstate 75 in icy conditions January 29, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. Thousands of motorists were stranded, many overnight, as a winter storm dropped three inches of snow, and ice made driving hazardous. (Photo by Scott Cunninghaml/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:26
Southeast could see snow on Monday
The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on NOAA-20 acquired this image of Hurricane Laura at 2:20 a.m. Central Daylight Time on August 26, 2020.
NASA Earth Observatory/Joshua Stevens
The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on NOAA-20 acquired this image of Hurricane Laura at 2:20 a.m. Central Daylight Time on August 26, 2020.
Now playing
01:13
Another active hurricane season is forecasted with 17 named storms
This picture taken on July 26, 2015 shows a child playing in a fountain on a square to cool himself amid a heatwave in Binzhou, eastern China's Shandong province.   CHINA OUT     AFP PHOTO        (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
STR/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
This picture taken on July 26, 2015 shows a child playing in a fountain on a square to cool himself amid a heatwave in Binzhou, eastern China's Shandong province. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:14
What NOT to do in a heat wave
Larry Pierson, from the Isle of Palms, S.C., purchases bottled water from the Harris Teeter grocery store on the Isle of Palms in preparation for Hurricane Florence at the Isle of Palms S.C., Monday, Sept. 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Mic Smith)
Mic Smith/AP
Larry Pierson, from the Isle of Palms, S.C., purchases bottled water from the Harris Teeter grocery store on the Isle of Palms in preparation for Hurricane Florence at the Isle of Palms S.C., Monday, Sept. 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Mic Smith)
Now playing
00:57
How to prepare for a hurricane
how hail is formed explainer orig_00000021.jpg
how hail is formed explainer orig_00000021.jpg
Now playing
01:00
How hail is formed
IN SPACE - In this handout photo provided by NASA, Hurricane Patricia is seen from the International Space Station. The hurricane made landfall on the Pacfic coast of Mexico on October 23. (Photo by Scott Kelly/NASA via Getty Images)
NASA
IN SPACE - In this handout photo provided by NASA, Hurricane Patricia is seen from the International Space Station. The hurricane made landfall on the Pacfic coast of Mexico on October 23. (Photo by Scott Kelly/NASA via Getty Images)
Now playing
01:07
Why hurricanes are so hard to predict
Storm chasing photographers take photos underneath a rotating supercell storm system in Maxwell, Nebraska on September 3, 2016. Although multiple tornado warnings were issued throughout the area, no funnel cloud touched down. / AFP / Josh Edelson / XGTY
RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE  / MANDATORY CREDIT:  "AFP PHOTO / Josh EDELSON" / NO MARKETING / NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS /  DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS  ==        (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
JOSH EDELSON/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Storm chasing photographers take photos underneath a rotating supercell storm system in Maxwell, Nebraska on September 3, 2016. Although multiple tornado warnings were issued throughout the area, no funnel cloud touched down. / AFP / Josh Edelson / XGTY RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE / MANDATORY CREDIT: "AFP PHOTO / Josh EDELSON" / NO MARKETING / NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS / DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS == (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
00:59
The difference between a tornado watch and a warning
Now playing
01:26
Hurricanes: What you don't know
Courtesy Amy Lloyd
Now playing
01:06
Why flash floods are so dangerous
Now playing
01:54
Why snow and blackouts in Texas are a preview for all of us
ring of fire chad myers weather orig_00003221.jpg
ring of fire chad myers weather orig_00003221.jpg
Now playing
01:13
What is the 'Ring of Fire'?
TOPSHOT - A city worker drives through the flooded street during Hurricane Sally in downtown Pensacola, Florida on September 16, 2020. - Hurricane Sally barrelled into the US Gulf Coast early Wednesday, with forecasts of drenching rains that could provoke "historic" and potentially deadly flash floods.The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said the Category 2 storm hit Gulf Shores, Alabama at about 4:45 am (0945 GMT), bringing maximum sustained winds of about 105 miles (165 kilometers) per hour."Historic life-threatening flooding likely along portions of the northern Gulf coast," the Miami-based center had warned late Tuesday, adding the hurricane could dump up to 20 inches (50 centimeters) of rain in some areas. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP) (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)
CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP/AFP via Getty Images
TOPSHOT - A city worker drives through the flooded street during Hurricane Sally in downtown Pensacola, Florida on September 16, 2020. - Hurricane Sally barrelled into the US Gulf Coast early Wednesday, with forecasts of drenching rains that could provoke "historic" and potentially deadly flash floods.The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said the Category 2 storm hit Gulf Shores, Alabama at about 4:45 am (0945 GMT), bringing maximum sustained winds of about 105 miles (165 kilometers) per hour."Historic life-threatening flooding likely along portions of the northern Gulf coast," the Miami-based center had warned late Tuesday, adding the hurricane could dump up to 20 inches (50 centimeters) of rain in some areas. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP) (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
01:41
How to prepare for severe weather
Franck Verdière/Twitter
Now playing
01:10
What 'rapid intensification' means for storms
natural disasters climate change project planet weir orig_00000313.jpg
CNN
natural disasters climate change project planet weir orig_00000313.jpg
Now playing
03:42
The future of climate change is here, scientist warns
Now playing
01:29
Steer like this to stay out of accidents in the snow
how hurricanes are named orig_00002729.jpg
how hurricanes are named orig_00002729.jpg
Now playing
01:38
How are hurricanes named?

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.

NY tourism site: Don’t come here, go to Florida

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.

CNN’s Carma Hassan and Tristan Smith contributed to this report.