Several school districts announced they will close Friday, including those in Cherokee, Forsyth and Hall counties.
Others — Cobb, Clayton, DeKalb, Douglas and Fulton county schools — will close early. Woodward Academy will close at noon Friday and will be closed for SAT testing on Saturday.
State government offices will also close by noon Friday.
Deal ordered state agency heads to encourage employees to telecommute where appropriate and called on local governments and private businesses in metro Atlanta and north Georgia to do the same.
The frigid weather is part of a new weather system that will move through the area following one that dumped several inches of snow in the far north Georgia mountains earlier this week.
The Mid-Atlantic region was also preparing for up to 2 feet of heavy, wet snow and blizzard conditions, and major airlines, including Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, were canceling or adjusting flight schedules.
Temperatures were 44 degrees in Atlanta, 38 degrees in Blairsville and 43 in Griffin just after 6:45 a.m.
State of emergency
Deal added more counties to a state of emergency order that is in effect through midnight Sunday. The counties covered by his emergency order include Banks, Catoosa, Dade, Dawson, Fannin, Franklin, Gilmer, Gordon, Habersham, Hall, Hart, Lumpkin, Murray, Pickens, Rabun, Stephens, Towns, Union, Walker, White and Whitfield counties.
Deal said the one-two punch of rain then snowfall could hinder state emergency preparations that rely on the use of brine on the roadways.
“If it comes with the rain first – which is now predicted to do – we cannot put the brine on the roads while it’s raining,” the governor said. “We need a period for the rain to dry out before we put the brine. We’ll make decisions based on the facts as we see them.”
Despite the tricky timetable, Georgia Emergency Management Agency Director Jim Butterworth said the state is “absolutely” prepared no matter how the forecasts shift.
“We’re going to have some rain in the morning, the rain is going to stop, and then the wintry precipitation is going to begin,” Butterworth said. “The timing is going to be key. And communication is going to be an absolute necessity.”
Deal said the timing could also work in Georgia’s favor since the brunt of the storm is set to hit over the weekend.
Rain, then snow
Channel 2 Action News meteorologists said a mix of rain and freezing rain will hit far northeast Georgia at 7 a.m. Friday. Some areas were already seeing snowfall just after 6 a.m.
Monahan said the heaviest rain will move away from metro Atlanta over the next couple of hours, but the transition to wintry mix is expected late this afternoon, maybe early evening.
Colder air will continue to blow in through the late afternoon, and precipitation will start to change over to light snow showers and flurries around 9 p.m. Friday across metro Atlanta and North Georgia, meteorologist Brad Nitz said.
Those snow flurries are expected to continue overnight into early Saturday morning. Nitz said snow flurries will be widespread across metro Atlanta and north Georgia, but they should taper off by later Saturday morning.
—Staff writers Greg Bluestein and Christopher Seward contributed to this article.