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Winter storm socks the South with snow, ice



By RAY HENRY and RUSS BYNUM

ATLANTA (AP) - The mad rush began at the first sight of snow: Across the Atlanta area, schools let out early and commuters left for home after lunch, instantly creating gridlock so severe that security guards and doormen took to the streets to direct cars amid a cacophony of blaring horns.

Georgia State University student Alex Tracy looked on with amusement.

"My family is from up north and we're used to driving in the snow and stuff, and seeing everyone freak out, sliding and stuff, it's pretty funny," Tracy said.

A winter storm that would probably be no big deal in the North all but paralyzed the Deep South on Tuesday, bringing snow, ice and teeth-chattering cold, with temperatures in the teens in some places.

Many folks across the region don't know how to drive in snow, and many cities don't have big fleets of salt trucks or snowplows, and it showed. Hundreds of wrecks happened from Georgia to Texas. Two people died in an accident in Alabama.

"As I drove, I prayed the whole way," said Jane Young, an 80-year-old pastor's wife who was traveling in Austin, Texas, before dawn on her way to volunteer at a polling station when sleet began falling. "I said, 'Lord, put your hands on mine and guide me. This is your car now.'"

As many as 50 million people across the region could be affected by the time the snow stops on Wednesday. Up to 4 inches of snow fell in central Louisiana, and about 3 inches was forecast for parts of Georgia. Up to 10 inches was expected in the Greenville, N.C., area and along the state's Outer Banks.

On the Gulf Shores beaches in Alabama, icicles hung from palm trees. Hundreds of students in the northeastern part of the state faced spending the night in gyms or classrooms because the roads were too icy. Four people were killed in a Mississippi mobile home fire blamed on a space heater.

The governors of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi declared states of emergency.

New Orleans' merry Bourbon Street in the French Quarter was oddly quiet as brass bands and other street performers stayed indoors.

Lee and Virginia Holt of Wayne, Pa., walked into Cafe du Monde - a New Orleans landmark known for its beignets and cafe au lait - after finding the National World War II Museum closed because of the weather.

"We understand they don't have the equipment to prepare the roads," she said. Her husband added: "Nor the experience."

Snow covered Atlanta's statues of civil rights heroes, and snowplows that rarely leave the garage rolled out onto the city's streets.

Mary McEneaney, who is in fundraising at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, left work around 1:30 p.m. and headed home, a five-mile drive that generally takes about 20 minutes. On Tuesday, it took three hours, including 40 minutes just to cover roughly three blocks.

"I had to stop and go to the bathroom" at a hotel, she said. "At that rate I knew I wasn't going to make it until I got home."

At a hardware store in the Georgia town of Cumming, snow shovels were in short supply, but manager Tom Maron said feed scoops - often used in barns - could be substituted.

Charleston, S.C.; Savannah, Ga.; Pensacola, Fla.; Virginia Beach, Va.; and New Orleans - popular warm-weather tourist destinations where visitors can usually golf and play tennis in shirt sleeves or light jackets this time of year - were expecting ice and snow on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Meanwhile, in the Midwest, dangerous cold continued to grip the region even as the storm moved south. Many schools closed for the second straight day. In Minnesota, forecasters said wind chills could reach 35 to 50 degrees below zero.

At Oak Mountain Intermediate School near Birmingham, Ala., principal Pat LeQuier said about 230 of the school's fourth- and fifth-graders and nearly all teachers and staff members were still on campus by late afternoon, and some could wind up spending the night since parents were stuck in traffic or at work.

"We have a toasty building, a fully stocked kitchen, and I'm not worried," LeQuier said.

In Savannah, residents braced for a winter whiplash, barely 24 hours after the coastal city hit a T-shirt-friendly 73 degrees. Less than a quarter-inch of ice and up to an inch of snow were possible in a city that has seen very little snow on its manicured squares in the past 25 years.

Savannah had 3.6 inches of snow in December 1989, a dusting of 0.2 inches in February 1996 and 0.9 inches in February 2010.

Phil Sellers leads walking tours rain or shine of Savannah's oak-shaded squares, bronze Civil War monuments and Victorian neighborhoods. But come ice and snow, he will stay inside.

"Usually what happens in Savannah is everything stops immediately when you first see a snowflake," he said. "Everyone's jaw drops."

At grocery store across the region, shoppers mostly cleaned out shelves of bottled water, bread, milk and boxed fire logs.

Nationwide, more than 3,200 airline flights were canceled.

In Georgia's Okefenokee Swamp, the alligators burrowed into the mud to keep warm.

"Their metabolism slows down so they're able to not breathe as often, so they don't have to come to the surface as often," said Susan Heisey, a supervisory ranger at the national wildlife refuge. "These alligators have been on this earth a long time and they've made it through."


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TONY FLETCHER January 28 2014 at 9:54 PM

14 degrees tonight , my grape fruit tree is probably dead, so much for global warming, catahoula parish, louisiana, stay warm------ I wish you the best. somewhere out there.

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1 reply
sgentilejr TONY FLETCHER January 28 2014 at 10:53 PM

Hi Tony, Look on the bright side. The extremely unusual cold freezing temps down there in LA will likely greatly reduce the mosquito and insect population.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
ntweety7777 January 28 2014 at 5:11 PM

Welcome to my world the Deep South. LOL

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2 replies
sulandherb ntweety7777 January 28 2014 at 5:20 PM

the bummer is going from 73 degrees to ice! Brrrrrrr.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
BigDawgDaddysRotten ntweety7777 January 28 2014 at 5:30 PM

Wouldn't it be nice to have some clean snow and make snow ice cream??

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Janice January 29 2014 at 10:29 AM

All of the stranded cars on the interstate in Georgia reminds me of Season 1 of "The Walking Dead" aduring the Zombie Apocalypse. I live in Louisiana, and I have to commend Governor Bobby Jindal, the Louisiana State Police, local law enforcement agencies, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, Kip Holden (the Mayor of Baton Rouge), the East Baton Rouge Parish Department of Public Works, and our local television channels and their weather teams for shutting down frozen roadways, keeping the public informed, and generally keeping us safe. We had no problems on roadways because we were informed. And, thanks to the general public for heeding the warnings to stay off the road. We had very few accidents.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
pamei7 January 28 2014 at 10:27 PM

2 rules to live by.................SLOW DOWN OR STAY HOME..............you make 100.00 per day but you bang up your can now you work for free for god knows how long

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1 reply
Jeane pamei7 January 28 2014 at 10:36 PM

Good point!!

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lynn.howard2 January 29 2014 at 10:32 AM

Being from the North I know how hard the brutle and hard the winters can be; I have lived in Ky for 40+ yrs but it still amazes me that everybody goes into panic mode when snow is mentioned. And we do get snow here but the farther south you go they don't know how to deal with it and don't have the equipment as the northern states do to handle. It isn't the snow but when it's ICE that another ballgame! People don't know how to drive and they just want to get home to thei family's especially their kids. "TOM" needs to watch out because from what I've heard Fl is getting some of the stuff too!!!! It doesn't have thing to do with be a REDNECK OR HOOSIER or any other type person; it called LIFE; the conditions are flipping. I hope all those ppl got home or got to safety and their families are safe.

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Hello, Jeffrey January 28 2014 at 5:09 PM

Hey Gib, I'm sure a bad-ass like yourself not watching the State of The Union from the comforts of indoors. I thought rugged guys like yourself haven't time to watch television anyways while holding up the world on your shoulders, such as it is! And I'm sure that "righteousness, go it alone, do it alone" spirit of yours just sprays sunlight on all those who are about you. God Bless America! Hallelujah!

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freeflowing2001jay January 28 2014 at 10:29 PM

After driving in Atlanta and other parts of the south, I witnessed first hand of the extreme speed driven in these areas. If you are not experienced with driving in this conditions, please dont drive.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
phpoling January 29 2014 at 10:41 AM

Sounds like they are not at all prepared for this weather and look what had happened! Students had to stayed overnights at schools? Really? Can't they walk home or were they not prepared, too? Can't they stay with their friends's houses just for one night then go back to schools?

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1 reply
bambi4318.barbara phpoling January 29 2014 at 11:08 AM

Why weren't the schools closed, they had storm warnings.

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notorious6 January 28 2014 at 5:01 PM

Human beings are warm weather animals. We evolved on the warm savannahs of Africa. If we were equipped to live in cold climates we would be covered with fur like a bear. Even bears have enough sense to hibernate in the winter. If you have any doubt, try surviving in Chicago in January with nothing more than your underwear. You would die of exposure within twenty minutes.

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2 replies
Jim notorious6 January 28 2014 at 5:05 PM

That's why we wear clothes.

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2 replies
notorious6 Jim January 28 2014 at 5:09 PM

The point is human beings ought not live in cold climates.

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cksm315 Jim January 28 2014 at 5:13 PM

We do? Is that why people stare?

Flag +1 rate up
cksm315 notorious6 January 28 2014 at 5:06 PM

And your point is....?

Flag Reply 0 rate up
RMS January 28 2014 at 5:00 PM

Helloooooo!!! It's Winter!!! This is news? Hopefully those who don't have to go out will have the sense to stay home when the weather is like this. A day or two at home won't hurt anyone, and can't be blamed for "cabin fever".

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