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A large part of the southern USA was hunkering down Wednesday in the face of what the National Weather Service has called "mind-boggling if not historical" snow and ice.

The potentially historic winter storm, called Pax, was threatening to knock out power for thousands and travel conditions may become especially difficult in the Carolinas and Georgia.

In Atlanta, Georgia Power was already reporting power outages around the state as emergency management workers waited to spring into action as rain — along with temperatures — fell, potentially leading to "catastrophic" ice conditions that were forecast to hit the region.

Eli Jacks, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said forecasters use words like "catastrophic" sparingly.

"Sometimes we want to tell them, 'Hey, listen, this warning is different. This is really extremely dangerous and it doesn't happen very often,'" Jacks said.

The storm lashing the South this week is at least the third this winter across parts of the region. Earlier in January, temperatures dropped to single digits as far south as Atlanta and Birmingham.

After pounding the South, this latest extreme weather is expected to move north, bringing as much as a foot of snow from Virginia to New England.

Contributing: William M. Welch; Associated Press

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