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A historic winter storm brought more snow and ice to the Southeast and Midwest early Thursday, canceling hundreds of flights and knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of homes.
Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas declared states of emergency, with up to 10 inches of snow falling in parts of the region overnight, according to The Weather Channel. Almost 140,000 customers in those states, as well as Mississippi and Virginia, were without power as of 3:30 a.m. ET. Nearly 500 flights scheduled for Thursday were canceled at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. The Weather Channel said non-essential travel "should be avoided through these areas."
Read MorePictures of brutal US winter
Snow was also falling in the Midwest and could bring as much as 5 inches to Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. By Thursday afternoon the two parts of the storm, in the Southeast and Midwest, were set to merge. The system was then forecast to move north, bringing between 1 to 3 inches of snow to parts of the mid-Atlantic and coastal New England before moving offshore in the evening, according to The Weather Channel.
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Meanwhile, bitterly cold temperatures were expected in the plains and Midwest. Fargo, North Dakota, could feel like minus-33 degrees Thursday, The Weather Channel said.
North Carolina's governor declared a state of emergency Wednesday ahead of the heaviest expected snowfalls. "We're anticipating a very, very tough storm," Gov. Pat McCrory told reporters.
Atlanta — seeking to avoid the debacle from last year when a snowstorm paralyzed the city and trapped some motorists on interstates for up to 36 hours — essentially shut down Wednesday. The mayor announced a staggered approach to have parents pick of children and for businesses to close ahead of the storm.
Georgia even delayed the execution of death-row inmate Kelly Gissendaner, who was scheduled to die at 7 p.m. Wednesday for the 1997 murder of her husband, because of the weather, the state Department of Corrections said.
Other parts of the country are bracing for bitter temperatures ahead. Minneapolis will feel like minus-22 degrees Thursday morning, forecasters said. Chicago will feel like minus-5 degrees. By Friday morning Pittsburgh will feel like minus-15 degrees as and other cities will also be below zero as the swath of arctic air moves through, forecasters said.