Wednesday winter weather and snow updates

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Red Cross Volunteers on standby as snow moves in

Volunteers with the American Red Cross of East Tennessee Region are preparing to respond to heavy snowfall across the area.

The agency says shelter teams and mass care volunteers are ready to open shelters across the area.

"Right now the major concern is large-scale power outages," says Regional Chapter Executive Michelle Hankes. "We're already seeing several thousands of people without electricity in the Southeast. That means people aren't able to stay warm and prepare meals."

Hankes says the Red Cross will stay in touch with Emergency Management Agency partners across the region to help people in need.

The Red Cross asks residents to be prepared to stay in their homes for several days, including having a supply of water, non-perishable foods, flashlights, batteries, blankets, a first aid kit and medication.

TEMA declares State of Emergency

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency has declared a State of Emergency in Tennessee. TEMA says they have activated a Level III status due to winter weather developing across the state.

TEMA says cold air and precipitation is expected to build northward in the state throughout Wednesday and is likely to produce ice and snow-covered roads into Thursday morning. Localized power outages are possible due to downed trees and power lines.

We'll continue to update this story through the day; please check the included links as well.

Knox County Emergency Management Agency opens ops center

The Knox County Emergency Management Agency opened the operations center at 3 p.m. Wednesday.

The emergency operations staff will be there overnight to answer calls and make sure the public is safe.

GSMNP closes facilities

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has closed facilities including the Sugarlands Visitor Center, the Oconaluftee Visitor Center and Park Headquarters.

US Highway 441/Newfound Gap Road is Gatlinburg Bypass is closed due to snow and ice.

Road crews treat with salt

County and city road crews tell us most roads in Knoxville have been pre-treated. As an expected wintry mix rolls in, crews will likely treat with salt only.

Winter storm moves into East Tennessee

A winter storm is expected to move into East Tennessee this afternoon. WVLT Chief Meteorologist David Aldrich says this could be the biggest snow since January 7, 1996, based on National Weather Service statistics; on that day we got 5.0 inches of snow.

*** SNOW POTENTIAL by Thursday morning ***
5 to 7" + for Knoxville and points east and the Smokies
3 to 5" for areas west of Hardin Valley and Cedar Bluff, including Oak Ridge and Decatur, Crossville and Jamestown.
1 to 3" west of Jamestown and west of Crossville.

Gatlinburg from Sherry McBrayer Dishner

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