Charleston, S.C.; Savannah, Ga.; Pensacola, Fla.; Virginia Beach, Va.; and New Orleans -- popular warm-weather tourist destinations where visitors can usually golf and play tennis in shirt sleeves or light jackets this time of year -- were expecting ice and snow on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Meanwhile, in the Midwest, dangerous cold continued to grip the region even as the storm moved south. Many schools closed for the second straight day. In Minnesota, forecasters said wind chills could reach 35 to 50 degrees below zero.
At Oak Mountain Intermediate School near Birmingham, Ala., principal Pat LeQuier said about 230 of the school's fourth- and fifth-graders and nearly all teachers and staff members were still on campus by late afternoon, and some could wind up spending the night since parents were stuck in traffic or at work.
"We have a toasty building, a fully stocked kitchen, and I'm not worried," LeQuier said.
In Savannah, residents braced for a winter whiplash, barely 24 hours after the coastal city hit a T-shirt-friendly 73 degrees. Less than a quarter-inch of ice and up to an inch of snow were possible in a city that has seen very little snow on its manicured squares in the past 25 years.
Savannah had 3.6 inches of snow in December 1989, a dusting of 0.2 inches in February 1996 and 0.9 inches in February 2010.
Phil Sellers leads walking tours rain or shine of Savannah's oak-shaded squares, bronze Civil War monuments and Victorian neighborhoods. But come ice and snow, he will stay inside.
"Usually what happens in Savannah is everything stops immediately when you first see a snowflake," he said. "Everyone's jaw drops."
At grocery store across the region, shoppers mostly cleaned out shelves of bottled water, bread, milk and boxed fire logs.
Nationwide, more than 3,200 airline flights were canceled.
In Georgia's Okefenokee Swamp, the alligators burrowed into the mud to keep warm.
"Their metabolism slows down so they're able to not breathe as often, so they don't have to come to the surface as often," said Susan Heisey, a supervisory ranger at the national wildlife refuge. "These alligators have been on this earth a long time and they've made it through."