'Catastrophic' Storm Moving Up the East Coast

b_250_0_16777215_00_images_obgrabber_2014-02_25860425e8.jpgScott Olson/Getty Images (NEW YORK) -- A potentially devastating ice storm is moving up the East Coast on Wednesday morning, expected to cause treacherous travel conditions and bring up to a foot of snow in some areas. Thousands of flights were grounded and emergency declarations were issued in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Virginia ahead of the storm.

Heavy accumulations are expected east of Atlanta, leading to snarled traffic and widespread power outages for a region that has previously struggled with winter storm preparations. Emergency management workers in that area were prepared to spring into action this morning as rain -- and temperatures -- fell.

Tuesday night, the Georgia National Guard was put in place with officials saying, "We're going to go out there on the highways and patrol to make sure all of our citizens are okay." Nearly 500 soldiers and 125 vehicles joined a growing number of salt trucks and snow plows.

A National Weather Service memo issued Wednesday called the storm "an event of historical proportions," identifying it as "catastrophic...crippling...paralyzing...choose your adjective."

While officials remained worried about the South, the Northeast is expected to get slammed, too. Winter storm warnings expanded to include Philadelphia and New York City on Wednesday morning, with those warnings lasting from midnight Thursday until 6 a.m. Friday.

The storm was expected to intensify and move up the East Coast on Wednesday into Thursday, with snow forecast to fall in Washington, D.C., and New York City overnight, leading to a slow, cold morning commute for the Northeast.

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