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Ice storm causes deaths, power outages, and traffic jams in the South

ATLANTA (AP) -- Small armies of utility workers labored to turn the lights - and the heat - back on for hundreds of thousands of Southerners as a winter storm that left them without power threatened major cities further up the East Coast.

The Deep South remained a world of ice-laden trees and driveways early Thursday after several unusual days of sleet and snow brought by a powerful system that could bring more than a foot of snow to such metropolises as Philadelphia, Washington and Boston.

At least 12 deaths across the South have been blamed on the stormy weather and nearly 3,300 flights nationwide were canceled with another day of complicated air and road travel ahead Thursday, particularly in the Northeast.

Drivers in and around Raleigh, N.C., became snarled Wednesday in huge traffic jams and abandoned cars in scenes reminiscent of motorist woes in Atlanta during a storm two weeks earlier. In Atlanta, many streets were eerily quiet this storm, with drivers heeding dire warnings to stay off the roads. State troopers say they worked more than 200 crashes in Georgia.

Winter Storm Jams N.C. Traffic, Cuts Power In Ga.

For some on slick, snow-covered interstates in North Carolina, commutes that should take minutes lasted hours after many got on the highways just as soon as snow and sleet began at midday.

And in South Carolina, more accustomed to occasional hurricanes, some could only relate the damage from ice-snapped tree limbs to that of bygone Hurricane Hugo. Even normally balmy Myrtle Beach, where millions of visitors cavort each summer, cars were coated in thick ice that also frosted palm trees and kiddie rides by the shore.

"I hate driving on this," grumbled South Carolina resident Mindy Taylor, 43, on her way for rock salt, kitty litter or anything else to melt the ice. "Hopefully it'll warm up by the weekend and it will all melt. I'm ready for Spring."

In Alabama, forecasters gleefully spoke of weekend temperatures reaching the 60s after inches of snow or sleet in its northern parts.

The snow, sleet and freezing rain that iced Southern highways also knocked out electricity to more than half a million homes and business as it advanced Thursday up the Interstate 95 corridor to the winter-weary Mid-Atlantic states.

Some Southerners who two weeks ago reveled in the so-called "snow jam" sounded tired this time of sleet and ice encasing highways, trees and even the tombstones of a cemetery replete with Confederate graves.

Bethany Lanier, 32, was walking in a mostly empty square in the Atlanta suburb of Decatur with Lindsay Futterman, a 30-year-old charter school teacher as they debated whether to get a drink at a pub.

If classes are canceled Friday, the charter school students will have missed nine days of school. To make up days, administrators have canceled a three-day break.

"Now, we're out because we have cabin fever," Lanier said as Futterman added: "It's kind of annoying now."

Many Southerners took to makeshift sleds on the ice and snow, with at least seven people hospitalized in sledding accidents just in Georgia. Four people were hurt sledding in a kayak that crashed into a pole, said Fire Chief Ricky Pruit in Cleveland, Ga. One victim suffered leg injuries, another was knocked unconscious and lost several teeth and the other two refused treatment, he said.

Ice combined with wind gusts up to 30 mph snapped tree limbs and power lines. More than 200,000 homes and businesses lost electricity in Georgia, South Carolina had about 245,000 outages, and North Carolina around 100,000. Some people could be in the dark for days.

As he did for parts of Georgia, President Barack Obama declared a disaster in South Carolina, opening the way for federal aid.

For the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast, the heavy weather was the latest in an unending drumbeat of storms that have depleted cities' salt supplies and caused school systems to run out of snow days.

Washington, D.C., could see around 8 inches of snow, as could Boston. New York City could receive 6 inches. The Philadelphia area could get a foot or more, and Portland, Maine, may see 8 or 9 inches.

In Atlanta, which was caught badly unprepared by the last storm, area schools announced even before the first drop of sleet fell that they would be closed on Tuesday and Wednesday. Schools were also closed for Thursday. Many businesses in the corporate capital of the South shut down, too.

The scene was markedly different from the one Jan. 28, when thousands of children were stranded all night in schools by less than 3 inches of snow and countless drivers abandoned their cars after getting stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic for hours and hours.

"I think some folks would even say they were a little trigger-happy to go ahead and cancel schools (Tuesday), as well as do all the preparation they did," said Matt Altmix, who was out walking his dog in Atlanta on Wednesday. "But it's justified."

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory urged people to charge their cellphones and find batteries for radios and flashlights because the storm could bring nearly a foot of snow in places such as Charlotte.

"Stay smart. Don't put your stupid hat on at this point in time. Protect yourself. Protect your family. Protect your neighbors," McCrory said.

In a warning issued early Wednesday, the National Weather Service called the storm across the South "catastrophic ... crippling ... paralyzing ... choose your adjective."

Meteorologist Eli Jacks noted that three-quarters of an inch of ice would be catastrophic anywhere.

However, the South is particularly vulnerable: Many trees are allowed to hang over power lines for the simple reason that people don't normally have to worry about ice and snow snapping off limbs.

Three people were killed when an ambulance careened off an icy West Texas road and caught fire. On Tuesday, four people died in weather-related traffic accidents in North Texas, including a Dallas firefighter who was knocked from an I-20 ramp and fell 50 feet. In Mississippi, two traffic deaths were reported as well as in North Carolina.

Also, a Georgia man apparently died of hypothermia after spending hours outside during the storm, a coroner said.


Associated Press writers Christina A. Cassidy, Ray Henry, Phillip Lucas, Jeff Martin and Peter Prengaman in Atlanta; Martha Waggoner, Michael Biesecker and Emery P. Dalesio in Raleigh, N.C.; Bruce Smith in Charleston, S.C.; Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Ala.; and Russ Bynum in Savannah, Ga., contributed to this report.


Join the discussion

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Laura February 13 2014 at 8:51 AM

People stay home. Us your common sense. losing a days pay is better than sitting on the highway for hours or worst yet getting killed.

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2 replies
mistergg69 Laura February 13 2014 at 9:00 AM

Conservatives in North Carolina have no common sense....they voted to give all their teachers a pay cut.

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2 replies
Shirley mistergg69 February 13 2014 at 10:28 AM

You SEEM to know a lot, but know nothing! I understand some NEW teachers were given a raise, as of a few days ago. Get real.

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MIKE HALL mistergg69 February 13 2014 at 12:52 PM

thats a real lie,not a simple untruth, an out right lie .

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MICHAEL Laura February 13 2014 at 9:15 AM

there is a serious lack of that in red states.

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ROSEHILL YORKIES February 13 2014 at 12:15 AM

You choose not to listen to the professionals that repeatidly warn in the strongest language possible, to get prepared, stay home, dont get out on the roads.....this will be catastrophic and will cause loss of human life....you load up and head out, you can not be surprised when you end up in a treacherous, deadly situation.......learning from our mistakes and errors in judgement often times do not present themselves again for some. Ask all the people that were washed away on Boliver during Hurricane Ike....ask the ones that decided to ride out Hurricane Katrina.....ask the man that refused to leave his home at the foot of a volcano that erupted and buried him in 22+ feet of molton rock. When the pros say GET OUT, by golly, get out!! When the pros say dont get out in the ice storm, stay off the roads, be prepared to stay in your home for several days, possibly without power, do what they say!!!!!! ....I do not understand for the life of me, why people take such risks with their life....guess "you buys your ticket, you takes your chances".....

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honeyrose3332 February 13 2014 at 12:16 AM

I live in S. Oklahoma and while we are having frigid temperatures with snow and ice on a smaller scale than what they are having in the east, we are cold here too. Then again, some states are in the 70s and 80s even. But reading some of the posts here where people are saying "no sympathy" and calling others stupid and other names, this is what is dragging this nation down and down fast, the fact that people are losing compassion and respect for others. Those doing the name-calling and badgering others ------------does the phrase "get the beam out of your own eye before you try to get it out of someone else's" mean anything to you?

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Tom February 13 2014 at 8:32 AM

Tom from Pitt,
To those of you who criticize the people of the south for the inability to react to the "ICE". If it were simply snow the problems would not be as dare. These are folk who aren't supported by the road crews and equipment that lets say a Chicago would have. In other words lets see how your city would react to an (ICE) storm with no salt trucks to service your roads. GET A GRIP People!

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1 reply
markmiller2014a Tom February 13 2014 at 8:46 AM

Houston has no salt trucks -- we use good ole sand and dirt to spread on roads and we tell people to stay home. Problem is many venture out to get milk and bread and eggs and/or to see the weather so they clog the roads. When there is any forecast of rain and near freezing weather employers here shut down for the duration.

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Hi Bob February 13 2014 at 8:17 AM

Do you think this is made by our Government?

Like (HAARP)

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hechiceromex February 13 2014 at 12:29 AM

I think some people were driving with out caution, get on an accident and make a big mes. I said this because in my way home not to far a truck pass me in a one line road. One extra min. some times is better than never make it.

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adagardengirl February 13 2014 at 7:50 AM

Thank you to the power companies! From S E North Carolina Beaches...we love you! All you Debbie Downers...it wasn't YOU!

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Hoosierladyus48 February 13 2014 at 7:44 AM

As I read some of these posts, I just sit here and laugh. What in the WORLD does the government have to do with the weather? It's Mother Nature, people!

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2 replies
scottee Hoosierladyus48 February 13 2014 at 8:02 AM

people sit around and expect the government to take care of them. tell them what to do, give them money. that was made clear with Hurricane Katrina and it's just getting worse. and politicians love it because it gives them more power because they have no fiscal constraints.

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1 reply
dedndogyrs scottee February 13 2014 at 10:01 AM

Who else will help people in disasters? And what's wrong with the government helping its citizens who are trapped on rooftops and under wrecked buildings and have no food or shelter or even water during a serious disaster?

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Dan Hoosierladyus48 February 13 2014 at 8:18 AM

True Hoosierladyus48. But you what folks'll say about blaming the govt; "Happened on his watch!" ☺

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Hi, there, Rita! February 13 2014 at 7:24 AM

I am in Charlotte, NC and let me just say, this city is CLOSED DOWN. No traffic at all.

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1 reply
dedndogyrs Hi, there, Rita! February 13 2014 at 10:06 AM

Probably a good idea. Maybe the other affected cities should do the same.

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failte9 February 13 2014 at 12:15 AM

Given ALL of the hand-held and other electronic devices that so many people have, how in the world could these people NOT be paying attention to a weather report predicting such potential severe consequences???? If you don't pay attn. to, and heed weather warnings & reports, then, what the heck good are the electronic devices that SO MANY PEOPLE HAVE???? Are they only used for chit-chat, & less important things? The fact that SO MANY PEOPLE were stranded, AND had to abandon their car, is mind boggling when we think of how they easily could've avoided putting themselves in a dire situation. Also, the immobility of so many cars could easily hinder an emergency vehicle's ability to get to someone who might have a medical emergency, such as going into labor and/or having a baby, a heart attack,or some other serious condition. Duh!!!!!

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