Southerners warned of icy mess in days ahead

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Rare Winter Storm Threatens South With Ice And Snow


ATLANTA (AP) - A blast of freezing precipitation expected to arrive Tuesday could scatter snow and ice across the Deep South, prompting officials from New Orleans to North Carolina to ready road crews and close some schools.

Popular warm-weather tourist destinations including Charleston, S.C., Savannah, Ga., Pensacola, Fla., and New Orleans were expecting ice and even snow - both rare occurrences in places that seldom even see prolonged sub-freezing temperatures.

In coastal Charleston, for instance, it was a balmy 62 degrees Monday. But the approaching weather led the College of Charleston to cancel classes Tuesday as a "precautionary measure." There was a forecast of rain, and sleet in the late afternoon, with the first snow expected Wednesday morning.

Much of Georgia was placed under a winter storm watch for Tuesday and Wednesday. While some areas could see as much as 3 inches of snow, the bigger concern with plummeting temperatures was ice.

"The snowfall amounts are going to matter very little in this situation because of the ice potential," said Jason Deese, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Peachtree City, Ga. "Some parts of the state may end up seeing the greatest impact just because they get more ice than snow."

Delta Air Lines officials say more than 1,800 flights have been canceled ahead of a winter storm expected to pelt areas of the Southeast with sleet and snow. Delta spokeswoman Betsy Talton says 1,850 flights have been canceled system-wide Tuesday beginning at 11 a.m. Of that number, Talton says 840 flights from Atlanta have been affected.

The airline is offering travelers the opportunity to make one-time changes to their tickets without a fee if they're traveling through Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, the Carolinas and Texas. Delta officials expected service to be affected between Jan. 28 and 29, and replacement tickets must be reissued by Feb. 1.

Forecasters were predicting snow and ice from Texas to the Carolinas by mid-week as precipitation moving in from the south met with cold air already chilling the region.

In the Carolinas, many school districts were running on half-day schedules Tuesday so students could head home before the worst of the storm system hit. In North Carolina's Outer Banks, barrier islands that are popular with tourists during the warm seasons, residents were bracing for as much as 8 inches of snow.

Several inches also were expected in South Carolina, where the state department of transportation planned to send crews out Tuesday to treat roads with sand and brine to ease any troubles caused by ice.

Elsewhere, some schools and government offices already closed in Mississippi ahead of the rare snow event.

"This is a very dangerous situation because snow and ice are very rare for extreme southern Mississippi," Robert Latham, executive director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, said in a news release. "We need everyone to have an emergency plan together for this."

In Louisiana, state Public Service Commission Chairman Eric Skrmetta told residents to be prepared by stocking up with food, fueling cars and making sure to have cash on hand, calling the icy forecast for the next couple of days "decidedly grim."

Donna Vidrine, a cashier at Simcoe Food World in Lafayette, said her store was already busy Monday.

"They're buying things like canned goods - nonperishable items - and bottles of water and diapers for their baby," she said.

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Southerners warned of icy mess in days ahead
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, before the Senate Banking Committee to deliver the semiannual Monetary Policy Report to Congress. Yellen noted that some recent economic data have pointed to weaker-than-expected gains in consumer spending and job growth. She said the Fed will be watching to see whether the slowdown proves only a temporary blip caused by severe winter weather. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Workers clear newly-fallen snow from a street, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Trenton, N.J., after a quick-moving storm brought several inches of snow as well as rare "thundersnow" to parts of the winter-weary East Coast. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Workers take a lunch break from shoveling snow near the Statehouse in Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Trenton, N.J., after a quick-moving storm brought several inches of snow as well as rare "thundersnow" to parts of the winter-weary East Coast. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 13: Kirby, a wheaten terrier, is walked by its owner during a snow storm February 13, 2013 in the Brooklyn borough of New York. In what is turning out to be one of the snowiest winter's in recent memory for New York City and ouch of the East Coast, Thursday's weather is expected to bring a wintery mix of sleet and snow with total accumulation of 6 to 8 inches of snow before ending early Friday morning. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 13: A worker with the New York City Parks and Recreation Department uses a snowblower along the Promenade during a snow storm February 13, 2013 in the Brooklyn borough of New York. In what is turning out to be one of the snowiest winter's in recent memory for New York City and ouch of the East Coast, Thursday's weather is expected to bring a wintery mix of sleet and snow with total accumulation of 6 to 8 inches of snow before ending early Friday morning. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
A worker shovels snow into a front loader on the plaza in front of the Barclays Center during a major snowstorm that dumped a foot of snow on the city, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014 in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
The sun illuminates windblown snow as a man walks under elevated train tracks, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, in Philadelphia. A winter storm stretched from Kentucky to New England and hit hardest along the heavily populated Interstate 95 corridor between Philadelphia and Boston. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Young people uses a mattress as a sled to slide down the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, in Philadelphia. A winter storm stretched from Kentucky to New England and hit hardest along the heavily populated Interstate 95 corridor between Philadelphia and Boston. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Workers clear snow Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, in Trenton, N.J., after a swirling storm Tuesday left frigid temperatures and more than a foot of snow in some areas. The storm clobbered the mid-Atlantic and the urban Northeast, grounding thousands of flights, closing government offices in the nation's capital and giving students another day off from school. The storm stretched 1,000 miles between Kentucky and Massachusetts. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
A man shovels snow off his car in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. A winter storm stretched from Kentucky to New England and hit hardest along the heavily populated Interstate 95 corridor between Philadelphia and Boston. Snow began falling at midmorning Tuesday in Philadelphia and dumped as much as 14 inches by Wednesday morning, with New York seeing almost as much. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Travelers walk in the economic parking lot at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014. The storm hitting the Northeast U.S. is forcing dozens of airports to delay and cancel flights. Sunday night temperatures will drastically drop to about minus 20 degrees. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Jan Solie, an over the road semi-truck driver from Augusta, Wis., checks her stuck truck in Grand Forks, ND, during a blizzard Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014, that made travel treacherous around the region and prompted the shutdown of roads, public schools and even universities. (AP Photo/Jackie Lorentz)
A man walks during a winter snowstorm Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, in Philadelphia. A swirling storm with the potential for more than a foot of snow clobbered the mid-Atlantic and the urban Northeast on Tuesday, grounding thousands of flights, closing government offices in the nation's capital and making a mess of the evening commute. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
A woman stands at the entrance of a building during a winter snowstorm Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, in Philadelphia. A storm is sweeping across the Mid-Atlantic and New England. The National Weather Service said the storm could bring 8 to 12 inches of snow to Philadelphia and New York City, and more than a foot in Boston. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Tourists seeks shelter from the falling snow by walking close to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014. A storm front is expected to leave five to eight inches of snow in it's wake as it passes through the Nations's Capitol. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)
Cecy Wang, right, clears snow off her car as Samuel Scott, left, shovels a sidewalk Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014, in St. Louis. As Missourians muddled through another frigid day Tuesday, the worst cold snap in nearly two decades was about to come to an end but many roads remained partly snow-covered two days after a winter storm dumped several inches of snow. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
A man runs back to his truck in blowing and falling snow as a strong winter storm moves through the Midwest Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014, in Springfield, Ill. Temperatures not seen in years are likely to set records in the coming days across the Midwest, Northeast and South, creating dangerous travel conditions and prompting church and school closures. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
A man wears a face mask and heavy clothes while walking through downtown Springfield, Ill., in blowing and falling snow as a strong winter storm moves through the Midwest Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014. Temperatures not seen in years are likely to set records in the coming days across the Midwest, Northeast and South, creating dangerous travel conditions and prompting church and school closures. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
US Postal Service letter carrier Danny Kim clears snow and ice as he climbs on the hood of his mail delivery truck in the parking lot at the U.S. Post Office in Bethesda, Md., Friday, Jan. 3, 2014. Kim said that despite the storm resulting in many closing of local school systems, he and his colleagues were working on an unchanged schedule. A winter storm that swept across the Midwest this week blew through the Northeast and its biggest cities on Friday, producing more than a foot of snow in spots, giving rise to wind gusts that threatened trees and power lines, and leaving bone-chilling cold in its wake. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
A jogger runs on the National Mall, with the Washington Monument in the background, Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, in Washington. After a storm blew through the Washington region overnight, roads are being cleared and many schools systems are closed. The federal government and the District of Columbia government will be open Friday, but workers have the option to take leave or telework. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
An Amtrak train kicks up fresh snow as it speeds southbound on Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, in Schodack Landing, N.Y.
A couple walk with a suitcase on a snow covered parking lot at Newark Liberty International Airport , Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, in Newark, N.J. Airlines cancelled flights early Friday because of the storm conditions. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie declared state of emergency Thursday, urging residents to stay home. Schools were closed as temperatures reached below 20 degrees with wind-chills below zero in some places. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Pedestrians brave wind and snow as they cross Fifth Avenue, Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, in New York. New York City public schools were closed Friday after up to 7 inches of snow fell by morning in the first snowstorm of the winter. A winter storm slammed into the U.S. Northeast with howling winds and frigid cold, dumping nearly 2 feet (60 centimeters) of snow in some parts and whipping up blizzard-like conditions Friday. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Heavy surf breaks over the seawall after a winter storm, Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, in Hampton, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Jack Keefe surfs in the Atlantic Ocean on the coast of Hampton, N.H., after a winter storm kicked up the surf, Friday, Jan. 3, 2014. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Cindy Roche of Salisbury, Mass., braces herself on a fence after taking pictures of rough surf at Salisbury Beach Friday, Jan. 3, 2014 in the wake of a winter storm which dumped up 2 feet of snow in some areas north of Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
John Breese is bundled against a cold wind as he tows a car that got stuck in the snow after skidding off the road in Yardley, Pa., Friday, Jan. 3, 2014 .The first winter storm of 2014 scattered up to 8 inches in some parts of Pennsylvania. Forecasters warned that gusts of up to 30 mph Friday could bring wind chills to minus 25 degrees, cold enough to cause frostbite in about 30 minutes or less. The National Weather Service said people should dress warmly to avoid hypothermia and cover all exposed skin. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Snowmen sit in front of the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, after a winter snow storm in the nation's capital. After a storm blew through the Washington region overnight, roads are being cleared and many schools systems are closed. The federal government and the District of Columbia government will be open Friday, but workers have the option to take leave or telework. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
A pedestrian walks in the snow on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014, in Albany, N.Y. Up to 5 inches of snow had fallen in eastern New York early Thursday, but the National Weather Service said some areas from Buffalo to Albany could get up to 12 inches by the time the storm subsides on Friday. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
A girls gets off her school bus on a snow-covered road during a winter storm on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014, in Zelienople, Pa. The National Weather Service predicts 2 to 4 inches of snow to fall from the storm in the Pittsburgh area and as much as 4 to 6 inches in the areas like this north of the city. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
A pedestrian walks through the snow outside the state Capitol on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014, in Albany, N.Y. Up to 5 inches of snow have fallen in eastern New York early Thursday, but the National Weather Service said some areas from Buffalo to Albany could get up to 12 inches by the time the storm subsides on Friday. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
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