(CNN) — A vicious winter storm began slicing through parts of the US Southeast Sunday, dropping freezing rain, ice and snow on cities and states that don’t normally face such cold weather challenges.

Winter weather alerts extend across the eastern US — stretching over 1,400 miles from Mississippi to Maine, an area that represents as many as 80 million people, CNN meteorologists said.

“I am particularly concerned for the impending ice storm that will impact the interior of South and North Carolina. Following a round of heavy snow, up to 3/4 of an inch of ice could accumulate,” meteorologist Derek Van Dam said.

“This will certainly bring power outages in the area as winds gust over 40 mph,” he added.

Freezing rain was reported in the central Piedmont region of North Carolina on Sunday morning, according to the Storm Prediction Center (SPC). Freezing rain was forecast to continue across portions of central North Carolina through the morning hours. Snow was falling across southeastern Virginia and was forecast to gradually change over to freezing rain.

As of Sunday morning, about 200,000 customers were without power in the southeast, including over 100,000 in Georgia and more than 40,000 in each of Florida and South Carolina, according to the website PowerOutage.US.

As much as a foot of snow could fall near the edge of the Blue Ridge escarpment in Greenville and as much as 20 inches of snow could accumulate above 4,000 feet of elevation in that area. A tenth of an inch of ice is also possible.

The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued an ice storm warning for portions of South Carolina, in effect through early Monday, with temperatures likely to remain sub-freezing until the start of next week.

“Significant amounts of ice accumulations will make travel dangerous or impossible. Travel is strongly discouraged,” according to the NWS office in Greenville.

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Charlotte could get up to a foot of snow in the foothills, and possibly as much as a half-inch of ice. Raleigh is expected to get up to 2 inches of snow and maybe a quarter-inch of ice, forecasters said.

The NWS is warning ice accumulations will become very dangerous along and east of I-85 including Spartanburg, South Carolina, all the way up to Salisbury, North Carolina. This includes the entire metro Charlotte area. “The highest snowfall totals are expected along the spine of the Appalachians as well as across the lower Great Lakes,” the National Weather Service said early Sunday.

“The most significant icing is expected over the Carolinas this morning. Significant impacts to travel across these regions are expected,” the NWS said.

Snowfall rates could top one inch per hour from northeast Georgia into the western Carolinas and far eastern Tennessee, the Storm Prediction Center said. Heavy snow will is also possible in western Virginia.

The governors of Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia declared states of emergency, allowing resources to be positioned ahead of the storm’s arrival.

Parts of northern and central Georgia could also see powerful winds Sunday, the National Weather Service in Atlanta said.

“With strong winds and the potential for winter weather, we are highly concerned about downed trees and powerlines knocking out power through Sunday, so prepare now!” the service wrote on Twitter Saturday evening.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp ordered the state Department of Defense to prepare 1,000 National Guard troops to assist in the response to the storm.

Mid-Atlantic and Northeast

The storm will turn northeastward to the East Coast on Sunday and Monday.

From the Mid-Atlantic through New England, the NWS said, “precipitation is forecast to begin as snow before changing over to ice/sleet and eventually rain with the approach of the storm center.”

Some snow will fall in major metro areas, but a change to rain will hold down the accumulations. Washington could get 2-4 inches, while Philadelphia could get 1-2 inches. New York and Boston are expected to get about an inch each.

Heavier snow is expected elsewhere, with more than a foot expected in some locations.

“As is common with this storm track, the Shenandoah Valley back toward the Alleghenies will be the likely winners in terms of highest snowfall totals,” NWS Baltimore said Saturday. “7 to 10 inches is possible, but over a foot is not out of the question where heavier bands form.”

Snowfall intensity in the region may be heavy enough to evade significant icing, but NWS Baltimore warned untreated surfaces may still lead to dangerous travel conditions where ice accumulates.

The majority of accumulating snowfall will occur Sunday afternoon through Monday morning.

Interior cities such as Charleston, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Syracuse and Burlington, Vermont, will see the heaviest snow.

Prior to the snow event moving into the region, the Northeast will experience cold temperatures and dangerous wind chill, forecasters said.

Coastal flooding also expected

Alongside the snowfall potential, strong winds from the east associated with the storm system could cause major coastal flooding of up to 3 feet above ground in some areas along the Northeast coast during high tide.

Parts of New York City, Long Island and some areas of Connecticut are under coastal flood warnings, forecasters said.

The timing of winds shifting from the east to the south will largely determine the severity of flooding, with moderate flooding potential if winds shift prior to high tide.

“Widespread moderate to locally major flooding of vulnerable areas is possible near the waterfront and shoreline, including roads, parking lots, parks, lawns, and homes and businesses with basements near the waterfront,” the NWS in New York said Saturday.

Inundation could cause road closures and structural damage along the Atlantic coastline.

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