A strong storm system churning its way through the desert Southwest early Thursday will bring metro Atlanta a good chance for a white Christmas, with accumulating snow possible as far south as the Columbus and Macon areas, forecasters said.

While the ground probably won't be white when you wake up on Christmas, a rain-snow mix expected to begin during the morning will likely change over to all snow later in the day, Channel 2 Action News meteorologist Brad Nitz said.

Nitz said he expects the rain-snow mix to continue through early afternoon, then change to all snow by Saturday evening.

The snow will likely continue across metro Atlanta through Saturday night before ending Sunday morning.

"Across the north Georgia mountains, the precipitation should fall as snow the entire time, allowing 2 to 4 inch accumulations there," Nitz said.

In a statement issued early Thursday, the National Weather Service predicted that 1 to 3 inches of snow could fall across metro Atlanta, with accumulations of an inch or less south of the city.

The Weather Service said there is "still a lot of uncertainty" about the storm's projected path. "Any deviation to the north or south could mean the difference between rain or snow, as well as total amounts."

The Weather Service warned that "anyone planning travel across north and central Georgia or the Southeast over the Christmas weekend should keep abreast to the latest forecast on this developing winter storm system."

If the current forecast holds, it'll be the first snow to fall on Christmas in Atlanta since a trace in 1993. The last time there was measurable snow on Christmas Day was more than a century earlier, in 1882, when .3 inch accumulated.

Between now and Saturday, sunny skies are forecast, with cool days and cold nights.

Temperatures early Thursday were in the upper 20s and low 30s, nearly 30 degrees colder than Wednesday's predawn readings.

Highs will be in the upper 40s on Thursday and low 50s on Friday, with lows Thursday night in the mid- to upper 20s.

There's a 20 percent chance of rain moving in on Friday night, when lows will be in the mid-30s.

The Christmas Day forecast is for a 70 percent chance of a rain-snow mix, along with highs only in the mid- to upper 30s.

Saturday night, the chance of snow is 50 percent, and lows will dip into the mid- to upper 20s.

Sunday will be mostly sunny but cold, with highs in the upper 30s followed by lows in the low 20s.