Deadly winter storms pummeling or threatening much of U.S.

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(CBS/AP) -- States from California to the Carolinas are bracing for massive winter storms this weekend.

More than 40 states are under winter- related advisories or warnings.

States of emergency are in effect in Alabama and Georgia, where several inches of snow are expected.

New York’s snowbelt off Lake Ontario saw whiteout conditions Thursday.

More than two feet of snow fell at a rate of three inches an hour in some places.

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Some students didn’t get out of school until hours after normal closing time -- and some spent most of the night. Many drivers were forced to abandon their vehicles and walk.

In parts of the Sierra Nevada, it’s been snowing nonstop since Tuesday. California’s Mammoth Mountain is under seven feet of new snow. And that total could nearly triple by the end of next week.

Many people in the South were stocking up on eggs, bread, milk and other staples ahead of a storm’s expected arrival late Friday. There were threats of snow, sleet and freezing rain across the Southeast.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for part of Friday and Saturday from eastern Alabama through north Georgia, including Atlanta, and into the Carolinas and part of Virginia.

Mike Schichtel, lead forecaster at the Maryland center, said the storm threat is significant for the Southeast.

“If you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle and you think you’re safe, you’re not,” Schichtel said. “Take it very seriously and adjust your travel plans accordingly.”

Schools canceled classes in several states and Alabama and Georgia issued emergency declarations ahead of the storm, which was already being blamed for one road fatality Thursday, in Kentucky.

School districts in Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia either closed or called off classes early as snow began falling there Thursday and more cancellations were planned Friday, including by school systems in central Alabama amid the threat of up to 3 inches of snow and sleet.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley issued a state of emergency that will open its emergency operations center Friday morning and put 300 Alabama National Guard soldiers at the ready to help if needed.

In North Carolina, Saturday’s ceremonies formally marking the inauguration of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper have been canceled. Activities scheduled for Friday will go on as planned.

The federal government’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland issued a forecast calling for 4 inches or more of snow for parts of Georgia, South Carolina and the Piedmont region and foothills of central and western North Carolina. The warning for central North Carolina called for a mixture of snow and sleet with up to 5 inches locally and as much as 7 inches from the central piedmont to the northern coastal plain.

To the west, heavy snow and strong winds have raised the danger of avalanches in the Colorado high country. A storm tracking across central California is dumping significant snow on the mountains, while a winter storm has already coated northern Utah with 9 inches of snow, forcing officials to cancel or delay classes Thursday.

The National Weather Service said snow accumulating for several weeks in Boise, Idaho, reached 15 inches Thursday and broke the previous snow-depth record of 13 inches set twice in the mid-1980s.

The storms pounded parts of California, Utah, Colorado and other states as they made their way east, creating difficult driving conditions and closing roads. Small avalanches and white-outs were reported in some areas.

Ski resorts in the West used their social media accounts to spread the news of the snow and to lure skiers who have been anxiously waiting to hit the slopes.

But some encountered problems, and the storm proved deadly.

A skier was rescued Wednesday after dangling from a Colorado chairlift after his backpack got caught. Luckily, a professional slackliner - a type of tightrope walker known for acrobatic tricks - climbed the lift tower and slid across the cable to reach him.

But on Thursday, one of two missing backcountry skiers found in the central Colorado mountains died while he was being treated for hypothermia.

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