Snow blanketed much of the Deep South on Friday, snarling traffic at some airports as it headed East to deliver a wintry weekend from Washington, D.C., to New England.
The National Weather Service forecast called for 3 to 6 inches of snow from central Virginia and up the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast coasts.
The weather service also issued a winter weather advisory for northeast New Jersey, southeast New York and southern Connecticut for a 24-hour period from 4 a.m. Saturday, prompting New York City to issue its own travel advisory.
Delighted children awoke to snow flurries in parts of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi and nearly two dozen school systems closed in The Peach State.
“It’s the first snow of the season and any time you even mention snow in the South, you’re going to get people a little panicky,” said David Nadler, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s office south of Atlanta.
TODAY IN THE SKY: Snow in Atlanta! Flight cancellations spike as storm intensifies
Delta Air Lines canceled nearly 400 flights Friday through its hub at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, while Southwest Airlines canceled around 100. Both airlines prepared for the storm by having crews de-ice planes. Nearly every big airline flying to Atlanta had waived change fees for customers booked on Friday's flights.
This first taste of winter will vary along the path across the South, with sleet and snow expected — but not certain — in much of Virginia on Saturday, and potentially larger amount of snow farther north in New York City, Massachusetts and Maine.
The National Weather Service said a half inch to one inch of snow is forecast across many areas of the South by Friday night. Winter weather advisories have been posted for parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas. The advisories were issued for cities including Baton Rouge, La., Hattiesburg, Miss., and Birmingham, Ala.
The wintry blast could produce especially hazardous driving conditions for Friday evening commuters in southern cities such as Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Raleigh, N.C., and Richmond.
Meanwhile, a second storm moving across the upper tier of the United States out of the Midwest could bring patchy snow, and the chance of a small accumulation to parts of the interior Northeast from Saturday night to Sunday, AccuWeather says.
The amount and intensity of snow activity depends on if and when the northern storm merges with the southern band and how much moisture it carries as it gets closer to the Atlantic Ocean.
"It may be a close call with accumulating snow versus melting snow from New York City to Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dave Houk. "New York City will have a better chance at an inch or two accumulation, since some of the snow will fall during Saturday night."
The storm's unpredictable nature was on full display in Texas, particularly near the Gulf Coast, as a band of heavy snow slowly moved over Austin and San Antonio on Thursday, eventually reaching Houston and Corpus Christi.
Winter storm hits the south, moves East: December 2017
Contributing: Associated Press