WASHINGTON (AP) - As the South and East braced for a nor'easter with the potential for significant snowfall by week's end, snow began to blanket much of Kentucky and Tennessee and contributed to at least one traffic-related death Wednesday.
The National Weather Service's Weather Prediction Center warns of heavy, "perhaps crippling" snow across the northern mid-Atlantic region, including Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia, probably beginning Friday.
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser said Wednesday that the city was preparing for blizzard conditions and up to 2 feet of snow. The city has requested Humvees from the National Guard to reach isolated people and places if necessary.
"If this is a blizzard and we have sustained winds and people lose power, that would be my biggest concern," Bowser said at a news conference. "We can move the snow. We will move the snow."
In the areas where blizzard conditions are possible, the weather service warns that travel will be limited if not impossible, and the strongest winds and potentially life threatening conditions are expected Friday night through Saturday night.
On Wednesday, the weather service issued blizzard and winter storm watches for parts of Maryland, Washington, Virginia and West Virginia. The watches start as early as Thursday and stretch into Saturday.
The bigger cities could get 1 to 2 feet of snow, but first the storm will bring ice and freezing rain to Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky starting Thursday, prediction center Meteorologist Rich Otto said. But it's not yet clear where the storm will hit the hardest, he said Wednesday.
"There's a lot of details that are yet to be seen," Otto said. "Subtle changes can make a big difference. We've seen that in storms in the past."
THE FIRST FLAKES
Snow in much of Kentucky and Tennessee led school districts and some universities to cancel classes Wednesday and contributed to at least one traffic death, and officials warned motorists to be cautious of slick roads.
The National Weather Service says between 2 and 4 inches of snow fell across large portions of both states, while some areas of Middle Tennessee also got a coating of ice. Most of the precipitation had ended by early afternoon.
The Knox County, Tennessee, Sheriff's Department says a car slid off the roadway due to speed and slick conditions, killing the driver and injuring a passenger.
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet says crews are continuing to treat roads to keep them passable, though they urged drivers to travel slowly as many remained partially covered.
TOO SOON TO TELL
Forecasters said Wednesday it's too early to know exactly how much snow a potential storm will bring to eastern Pennsylvania, but that wasn't stopping preparations around the region.
Mitchell Gaines, of the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, New Jersey, said snow totals will be more apparent by Wednesday night. However, he cautioned that when it hits, people should be prepared for strong winds, heavy, wet snow and power outages.
NOT EVEN SAFE FOR A SNOWBALL FIGHT?
Even the organizers of a snowball fight are nervous about the storm that's expected to hit the nation's capital.
With forecasts calling for up to 2 feet of snow - accompanied by strong winds that could lead to blizzard conditions - the Washington D.C. Snowball Fight Association is taking a wait-and-see approach to its gathering in Dupont Circle, tentatively scheduled for Saturday.
"If it is still blizzard conditions, that's not the optimal conditions. We might have to move it. Maybe to Sunday, maybe later on Saturday," snowball fight organizer Ami Greener said. "Once it stops snowing, anything is good. Two feet of snow is fine."
STOCKING UP ON SUPPLIES
Simon Martinez, 48, felt fortunate to find a new snow shovel at a True Value hardware store in northwest Washington. He tried a nearby Home Depot first, without success.
"It's crazy there," he said, adding that they were also out of salt.
In Baltimore, Director of Emergency Management Bob Maloney urged residents to make sure they have enough water to last for three days, along with a working flashlight and a battery-operated radio.
For Mitchell Cohen, owner of Cohen & Co. Hardware in Center City Philadelphia, the snowy forecast is good news.
He said he has been getting calls from people asking to hold shovels for pickup on Friday and Saturday. He was getting shovels and snow melt delivered Wednesday.
"For us, it's good," Cohen said. "We live right around corner so it's no problem getting here, no matter how bad it gets. We'll be open all weekend."