Rare snow blankets Southeast

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. --- A potent March snowstorm blanketed much of the South before heading toward the Northeast.

It threatened to drop up to a foot of snow in the Philadelphia area, 13 inches in New York and 15 inches across southern New England late Sunday.

In Georgia, the snowfall made roads treacherous and delayed flights, while in Alabama, more than 210 churches in the central part of the Bible Belt state had to cancel morning services.

Up to 7 inches of snow was expected through this morning in areas of Maryland, northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., where Mayor Adrian Fenty declared a snow emergency.

Despite above-freezing temperatures in downtown Atlanta, a heavy curtain of snow fell on cars and caused traffic accidents.

Some flights were canceled at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, where the average delay was nearly two hours, according to a Federal Aviation Administration Web site.

The late Southern snowfall revived memories of a large storm in 1993 that forecasters nicknamed the "Snowfall of the Century," said Laura Griffith of the National Weather Service in Peachtree City, Ga. In that storm, Atlanta received 4.2 inches of snow.

In South Carolina, officials warned people to stay inside as the state braced for a winter storm forecast to bring up to several inches of snow to the Palmetto State through today.

The National Weather Service posted winter storm warnings for most of the northern and central areas of South Carolina. Rain was expected to turn to snow and continue until this morning. Accumulations of up to half a foot or more were predicted for the Upstate region while 2 to 4 inches were expected to fall in the state's Midlands region.

Meteorologist Blair Holloway said if predictions held, it could be the area's most significant March snowstorm since nearly 10 inches were recorded at Greenville-Spartanburg Airport in 1993.

The state Highway Patrol has already begun deploying troopers for the increase in traffic accidents it expects to see during and after the storm, Sgt. Kelly Hughes said.

LOCAL SCHOOL CLOSINGS

Richmond County schools were expected to announce any cancellation or delay in classes by 5 a.m., according to Lou Svehla, spokesman for the school system. The following schedules have been announced for today:

CLOSED

- Columbia County (classes canceled; all 12-month contract employees -- including central office staff and school custodians -- are expected to report at 10 a.m.)

- Aiken County (12-month employees on two-hour delay)

- Augusta Christian Schools

- Augusta Preparatory Day School

- Edgefield County Schools

- McDuffie County Schools

- Westminster Schools

- Warren County

- Briarwood Academy

- Midland Valley Christian Academy and Day Care

- Fox Creek High School

DELAYED

- Augusta State University -- no classes until 10 a.m.

- Paine College -- classes delayed two hours

- University of South Carolina Aiken -- no classes until 11 a.m.; faculty and staff should report by 10:30 a.m.

- Aiken Technical College -- no classes until 11 a.m.

OPEN: NORMAL SCHEDULE

- Medical College of Georgia

SNOW PHOTOS

If it does snow, take pictures and send them to preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com. He'll post them on his weather blog.