With up to 1½ inches of ice around metro Atlanta and 3 to 5 inches of snow in north Georgia, utility companies say more than 177,000 customers were without power as ice coated trees and brought branches and power lines down.
And more is coming. National Weather Service forecasters say the storm -- packed with sleet, snow, rain and ice -- is a potentially "catastrophic event."
"This is one of Mother Nature's worst kinds of storms that can be inflicted on the South," Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal told reporters Tuesday afternoon. "That is ice. It is our biggest enemy."
In Georgia, more than 400 members of the National Guard were deployed for weather duty, and about 100 each for the Carolinas and Alabama. The National Guard also opened 35 of its armories in Georgia to be repurposed as shelters and warming centers, CNN affiliate WSB-TV reported.
The storm system was taking its toll on travel.
Nationwide, more than 2,600 flights were canceled, according to FlightAware.com, and more than 800 of those cancellations occurred at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. That includes all flights Wednesday to and from Jacksonville International Airport.
At JIA, nearly a dozen flights have already been canceled, and according to flight crews, Thursday and Friday will be even worse.
Elizabeth Lippincott, who's traveling to Rome on a family vacation, said months of anticipation turned into disappointment for her three kids and husband. Her connecting flight in Atlanta was canceled because of weather, and it hasn't been rescheduled, delaying the family's international adventure.
Lippincott said after a few hours, the airlines were able to get her on a flight to Minneapolis, rerouting her around the snow and ice storm that's walloping the Northeast.
Georgia's Department of Transportation put crews on 12-hours shifts to salt, sand and scrape the roadways. Gov. Deal said the state brought in an additional 180 tons of salt and sand, and he urged residents not to put themselves "in jeopardy or danger."
Residents complied. Tuesday's rush-hour traffic was light. Traffic clustered around gas stations and grocery stores.
Throughout the Southeast, hundreds of businesses, churches, government offices and school systems were closed because of the weather, CNN affiliates reported.
Among the cities with lengthy lists of closings were Atlanta; Nashville; Birmingham, Alabama; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Charleston, South Carolina; Columbia, South Carolina; Memphis, Tennessee; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Charlotte, North Carolina.
In Atlanta, the U.S. Women's National Team postponed its soccer match with Russia, which was scheduled to take place Wednesday in the Georgia Dome. It also canceled its training session Tuesday evening.
Georgia winter storm response by the numbers
- SNOW AND ICE: Quarter-inch to 1.5 inches of ice around Atlanta and east. 3 to 5 inches of snow in north Georgia.
- POWER OUTAGES: More than 177,000 homes and businesses without electricity statewide, according to Georgia Power.
- THE ARMY NATIONAL GUARD: 100 guardsmen activated, more on standby. 125 four-wheel drive vehicles, including Humvees.
- EQUIPMENT: 705 pieces from Georgia Department of Transportation, including trucks, plows, salt spreaders. 125 spreaders and snow plows in city of Atlanta.
- STAFF: 2,130 state transportation workers on call.
- SALT AND GRAVEL: 64,150 tons in state stockpiles and expecting to get more. 3,000 tons for city of Atlanta roads.
- UTILITIES: 200 trucks from throughout the Southeast available to start restoring power.
- WARMING SHELTERS: 65 operated by the Guard throughout state. 21 in Atlanta along with 6 police precincts and the city's fire stations.
- FLIGHTS: 1,609 Atlanta-based flights canceled for Wednesday. 100,000 gallons of de-icing fluid, 100,000 pounds of de-icing pellets, salt and sand for runways.
- LAST TIME: In 2000, ice storm in Atlanta area left more than 500,000 homes and businesses without power. Damages topped $35 million. A storm in 1973 caused an estimated 200,000 outages for several days.