winter weather
A truck travels through blowing snow 
on Interstate 80 near Lincoln, Neb. (Nati Harnik/AP Photo)

White Out
Snow Sweeps Country, North to South

Dec. 19— Snow and cold are sweeping most of the nation today, with flakes piling up and causing trouble from Georgia to Minnesota.

    Temperatures in northern Georgia were forecast to peak in the 20s today, with lows near 10 degrees — and wind chills as low as zero. The snowfall was the region’s second in three days.
     The snow is heading north, ABCNEWS weatherman Tony Perkins said today. Areas from the Carolinas up to New England should expect two to five inches of snow. And as the wintry flakes taper off in the South, they’ll get even worse up north Wednesday, with further accumulations expected, he said.
     “It seems we’re setting up for a pretty active winter, as opposed to the last couple of winters which have been relatively mild, at least for the east,” Perkins said.
     Along Interstate 75 near Atlanta, roads are slick and slushy under two inches of snow, with drivers being told to take it easy on their morning commutes. Tasha Munez, a resident of Cobb County near Atlanta, said she’s trying to look on the bright side and get into the holiday spirit.
     “I think it’s beautiful, I hope it snows all week,” she said.
     But most Georgia drivers aren’t used to the snowy conditions, and officials are concerned that temperatures will drop further and the snow will turn to ice.
     Delta Airlines canceled about 60 percent of its departures from its Atlanta hub through 10 a.m. today, spokeswoman Cindi Kurczewski said, but they expect to run a more normal schedule this afternoon.
     “The biggest advice we can probably offer people is to ensure that we have a good phone number on file so that we can reach them” in case of cancellations, she said.

Cold Country
More cold and snow were also forecast today in neighboring Tennessee, where at least 28 of the state’s 95 counties closed schools Monday. Several schools announced that they planned to stay closed today.
     In Alabama, freezing rain, snow and a second day of cold closed dozens of schools Monday and sent homeless to shelters across the state. The state was still recovering from weekend tornadoes that killed 12 people.
     Power crews in eastern Texas are calling this the worst ice storm they’ve ever seen. The storm has left the town of Longview, Texas, virtually incapacitated for the past week. James Shore, a Longview resident, said he’s been living without water since last Tuesday.
     “About the third day it was pretty bad. ... I had to go use someone else’s shower and shave, and so infringed on some friends,” he said.
     In Nebraska, schools and businesses came to a halt as the state was hit by its fourth storm in a week. The drifting snow is expected to pick up again tonight, but it let up just long enough for emergency road clearing on the state’s highways.
     “We still have areas of zero visibility due to blowing snow,” said Monica Spanke, a dispatcher with the Nebraska State Patrol. “The road surface is partly covered, icy in areas, especially over passes and bridges.” 
     Elsewhere in the country’s midsection, Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee declared disaster areas in 41 counties nearly a week after what state officials said was the worst ice storm in state history. Some 40,000 homes were still without power Monday.
     “I’ve just been quilting by the light of the window during the day and go to bed when it gets dark,” said Kitty Watson, 73, whose home has been without electricity since last week. “And my goodness, I must’ve gained 10 pounds in the past week ‘cause you know, you bake when you’re bored.” 

Snow in the Great Lakes
The Great Lakes are used to snow, but this is getting ridiculous. Forecasters are predicting accumulations up to 17 inches on a second straight snowy day in Wisconsin, with roads that have become sheets of ice and several weather-related accidents, at least one involving a snow plow.
     “It’s the worst snow storm we’ve ever had in December and the most snow that we’ve ever had, too,” said Veronica Platt, who works at the Days Inn in Madison, Wisc. “Right now, most of the roads outside in front of our hotel are completely stopped and all the traffic is completely stopped.”
     Nearly a quarter of the flights at Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee were canceled or delayed Monday and more than 100 Northwest flights were delayed in and out of Minneapolis-St. Paul.
     United canceled 72 of its 414 scheduled departures from O’Hare in Chicago. American Airlines canceled about 45 departures and arrivals, said spokeswoman Mary Frances Fagan. O’Hare isn’t out of the storm yet — the Great Lakes will see a few more inches of snow today, Perkins said. 

Some Dislike it Hot
Southern California is enjoying temperatures in the 80s, but it has problems of its own: high, dry winds that parch residents and create prime conditions for wildfires.
     “I had to quit wearing contacts because my eyes were too dry in this kind of weather,” said Vicky Andrews of Porter Ranch, Calif. “And I teach school, and the kids are crazy in this kind of wind.”
     The wind is irking more than just Andrews’ students. An arsonist torched a car in the Los Padres National Forest, 35 miles northwest of Los Angeles early Monday morning, setting off a blaze that burned nearly 500 acres.
     The wildfire, and others that broke out Monday, caused no injuries or property damage. The region’s dry, hot conditions were expected to persist for several days.
     The warm weather was welcome news to Christine Lloyd, an Australian working at a restaurant in Malibu, Calif.
     “I was out in the back yard, hosing off the pool chairs, in just shorts and T-shirt, having a great time,” she said. “Me being a Sydney girl, it’s 80 degrees, it looks like a real Christmas to me.” 

ABCNEWS' Wendi Grossman in Atlanta, John Bynum in Milwaukee and the Associated Press contributed to this story.