Get off the roads, and stay off.
That was the message in Georgia and the Carolinas as a snow and ice storm swept through Wednesday, bringing some of the Southeast's most populous cities to a standstill.
The warnings came as freezing rain brought heavy ice accumulations from Atlanta to Charlotte. Across a large swath of the South, hundreds of thousands of people were without power and thousands of flights were canceled.
Calling ice the biggest enemy, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency. School districts canceled classes and government offices were shuttered in an attempt to avoid a repeat of the traffic paralysis caused by a storm last month.
Up to three-quarters of an inch of ice was expected to accumulate in Atlanta and up to 10 inches of snow and sleet were expected in Raleigh and Charlotte, making travel treacherous.
Also in the storm's path were Virginia and Washington, with much of the Northeast to follow.
All federal offices in the nation's capital were ordered closed, and thousands of employees were being told to stay home, according to the Office of Personnel Management.
'Stay home, if you can'
While most of the major thoroughfares in and out of the city of Atlanta were reportedly devoid of traffic, a different scene was playing out to the northeast where the storm appeared to take people by surprise despite days of warnings.
"Stay home, if you can," North Carolina's Department of Public Safety said in posts on Twitter. "Quickly deteriorating road conditions, numerous car accidents in Durham/Franklin/Johnston/Wake counties."
Gridlock gripped portions of the state, including Raleigh, Durham and Charlotte, as cars and trucks got stuck on snow- and ice-covered roads.
"We saw so many people ... cars piled up and left on the side of the road, and wrecks," said Christina Martinson, who was stuck in the snow-bound traffic with her husband and son for hours in Durham.
"It's really, really bad, and it got so bad so quickly that people just weren't ready. Even though we were warned, it just happened more quickly than you would think possible."
For some, there just wasn't enough time.
Michael Crosswhite, 44, planned on leaving work in Raleigh, in Wake County, by midafternoon, well ahead of when forecasters initially predicted a snow and ice storm to hit the area.
But by noon, the snow and icy rain was coming down.
'Nothing you can do but hope you don't get stuck'
"We just passed an 18-wheeler that spun out into a ditch," he said by telephone more than two hours into his journey home to Durham, a trip that typically takes less than 30 minutes.
Moments later, a car ahead of him spun out in front of him.
"It's kind of slushy, and there are just icy spots that there is nothing you can do but hope you don't get stuck," Crosswhite said.