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Winter storm socks the South with snow, ice


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."

Join the discussion

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tasopatczpatricia January 29 2014 at 8:59 AM

I was born and raised in Wisconsin. That being said, I eventually moved to NW Mississippi. The first winter I was down here, we had a half inch of snow and the schools were closed for 2 weeks! If a single snowflake is spotted, everyone rushes out and raids the grocery stores. Not sure, but I think grocery store raiding is a law down here. Never seen the likes of it in Wisconsin. Granted we get more ice storms down here than we did in Wisconsin, but that is just the way it goes. No need to panic. We will see the light of day once more whether we raid the grocery stores or not.

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2 replies
Anne Boleyns Crown tasopatczpatricia January 29 2014 at 9:04 AM

I think it's because we tend to lose electricity and then there's nothing you are able to cook with. Just dip your bread in that milk and chill. Literally.

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meg22502 tasopatczpatricia January 29 2014 at 9:13 AM

The problem is that the southern states so rarely see this kind of weather so they are not supplied with the equipment to handle any significant ice or snow. If the roads don't get brined or salted even one solid layer of ice can prove to be detrimental. I have a friend who has be stuck on the interstate in Alabama since yesterday! The traffic is gridlocked and its a very real problem. I think Northerners forget that its not about an overreaction its about not having the proper equipment and preventative measures. (Along with semi-truck drivers who drive WAY too fast and cause all kinds of wrecks, which according to my friend is what has happened in Alabama.)

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bambi4318.barbara meg22502 January 29 2014 at 10:08 AM

The areas hit by this storm should have shut down the night before the storm hit then what little equipment they have could do their jobs.

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grammymjg January 28 2014 at 6:28 PM

To all my friends in the South, Just a reminder to please bring in your pets during this cold weather.

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1 reply
ajafullmn grammymjg January 28 2014 at 7:15 PM

You are right, but I spent a large sum of $$ and time re-doing my guard dogs houses, even installed heaters. You know where they are sleeping? In the snow! grrrr and one had short hair.

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pbfleming January 28 2014 at 6:25 PM

pat up in mich. I lived in Hillsdale for 40 plus years and remember well the blizzard in the 60s.In fact we had to have snow mobiles go out and bring in the relief nurses. The regular nurses were bed down in the OB section. Many laughs about that. Fla had a warm day today 72 degrees but we expect the temp to go down. Stores are not stocked with long johns but plenty of party water. Phil

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pamela pbfleming January 28 2014 at 7:16 PM

omgosh, such a small world. I am from hudson michigan and i remember growing up in the sixties and seventies there where snow and below freezing temps were not uncommon back in those days. we moved away from there in 1978, and if you recall, that was the last blizzard i went through before moving to the sunshine state and have been here ever since. BTW, i live in daytona beach and our temps reached 75 today with sunny skies. in fact, i was just looking up at the clear star filled sky outside tonight counting my blessings while not too far away most of the U.S. in buried under snow or ice. YIKES!!!!!!

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Anne Boleyns Crown January 29 2014 at 9:17 AM

Monday in Wilmington, NC I was walking at the sunny beach, 65 degreee. Today, I am looking at a layer of ice covered by a layer of frozen snow.

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barric666 January 28 2014 at 6:23 PM

Please send us some cold weather here in Canberra Australia,its like a BBQ here today 38c

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2 replies
MARTHA & PERRY barric666 January 28 2014 at 6:35 PM

put some shrimp on the barbe

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ricke4yos barric666 January 28 2014 at 7:33 PM

I hear ya barric666. I wish there was a way to redistribute cold and warm air. You'll notice that many of the folks who comment on these issues are ignorant of the difference between weather and climate.

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mom January 28 2014 at 6:18 PM

My son, NY born and raised, got a job in Atlanta last year. He actually walked home from work today and left his car in the lot because he was afraid of the drivers who had no experience driving in snowy weather. I raised a smart boy ;)

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2 replies
kenbushway mom January 28 2014 at 6:20 PM

Yes you did. I drove today in Ga, you are right.

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kim mom January 28 2014 at 6:25 PM

We lived in Up State NY for 10 years and now in Florida, my husband is a truck driver he told his company he would stay in Florida today, because the people in the south don't know how to drive in bad weather.

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1 reply
Georgeann kim January 28 2014 at 7:03 PM

They don't because they are not use to this kind of weather. Smart man. :)

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PATRICIA January 28 2014 at 6:08 PM

Down to 2 degrees above 0 here in Southern Michigan. Snow so deep, mailboxes are completely covered up; mail delivery not possible. So far, no power outages; at least not where I live.

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maggiemaysss January 29 2014 at 9:22 AM

To all the people telling southerners to learn how to drive.

If it never snows where you live? How are you suppose to learn how to drive in it???
Should they take vacations up north for 2 weeks each winter in order to practice?

Also, I would like to see these critical people driving "up north" with no salt trucks or snow plows.

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3 replies
pulletsurprise2 January 29 2014 at 9:27 AM

Why in the hell did the DOT allow a hauler with an oversize load - one that takes up two lanes - on a highway when they had to know what the weather was going to be like? Stupid - just plain stupid.

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blueeyessing January 29 2014 at 9:33 AM

Why are there people stuck in a bus for 11 hours with no food or water? Can't the National Guard or somebody rescue them?

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1 reply
rwilliamhoward blueeyessing January 29 2014 at 9:54 AM

The same thing that STUCK their bus prevented their rescue! They weren't being HELD, as in prisoners. They were being held by conditions beyond anyones control. Those same conditons prevent getting IN to them as surely as they prevented them getting OUT.

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blueeyessing rwilliamhoward January 29 2014 at 11:07 AM

I just now read the National Guard is sending humvees to try and get kids off of buses. Hope they are successful. Good luck.

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