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Another ice storm causes havoc across the South


ATLANTA (AP) - The second wintry storm in two weeks to hit the Deep South encrusted highways, trees and power lines in ice Wednesday, knocking out electricity to more than 350,000 homes and businesses.

But it didn't wreak the highway havoc in Atlanta that the previous bout of heavy weather did - largely because people learned their lesson the last time and stayed off the roads.

At least nine traffic deaths across the region were blamed on the treacherous weather, and more than 3,100 airline flights nationwide were canceled.

As residents across the South heeded forecasters' unusually dire warnings and hunkered down at home against the onslaught of snow and freezing rain, the storm pushed northward along the Interstate 95 corridor, threatening to bring more than a foot of snow Thursday to the already sick-of-winter mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

Forecasters warned of a potentially "catastrophic" storm across the South with more than an inch of ice possible in places. As the day wore on, power outages climbed by the hour and the dreary weather came in waves.

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, 130,000 in South Carolina and nearly 30,000 in Louisiana. Some people could be in the dark for days.

In Atlanta, which was caught unprepared by the last storm, streets and highways were largely deserted this time. Before the first drop of sleet even fell, area schools announced they would be closed on Tuesday and Wednesday. 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.

However, heavy afternoon traffic was reported in Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C.

Caitlin Palmieri drove two blocks from her job at a bread store in downtown Raleigh before getting stuck. Two men helped her park her car, and she walked back to work.

"It seemed like every other car was getting stuck, fishtailing, trying to move forward," she said.

Across the region, those who had power passed the time watching movies or surfing the Internet. Matt Altmix walked his Great Dane, Stella, in Atlanta because "even in the snow, you still have to do your business."

"I think some folks would even say they were a little trigger-happy to go ahead and cancel schools yesterday, as well as do all the preparation they did," Altmix said. "But it's justified."

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, who was widely criticized over his handling of the last storm, sounded an upbeat note this time.

"Thanks to the people of Georgia. You have shown your character," he said.

Deal said four students, ages 11 to 18, from the Georgia Academy for the Blind in Macon were back home in metro Atlanta after hitching a ride with the Georgia National Guard before the worst of the storm hit. Their parents were unable to make the drive, which is 80 or 90 miles one way.

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.

Kathy Davies Muzzey of Wilmington, N.C., said she hid the car keys from her husband, John, on Tuesday night because he was thinking about driving to Chapel Hill for the Duke-UNC basketball game. He has missed only two games between the rivals since he left school in the late 1960s.

"He's a fanatic - an absolute fanatic," she said.

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.

The nation's capital could get up to 8 inches of snow. New York City could see 6 inches. Other sections of eastern New York were expecting 10 to 14 inches.

In Atlanta, stinging drops of sleet fell and windshields were crusted over with ice. Slushy sidewalks made even short walks treacherous. One emergency crew had to pull over to wait out the falling snow before slowly making its way back to the Georgia Emergency Management Agency's operations center.

In normally busy downtown areas, almost every business was closed except for a pharmacy.

Amy Cuzzort, who spent six hours in her car during the traffic standstill of January's storm, said she would spend this one at home, "doing chores, watching movies - creepy movies, 'The Shining'" - about a writer who goes mad while trapped in a hotel during a snowstorm.

In an warning issued early Wednesday, National Weather Service called the storm "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. A chain-reaction crash shut down the four-lane Mississippi River bridge on Interstate 20 at Vicksburg, Miss., and a tanker leaked a corrosive liquid into the river. No one was injured.

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.

Join the discussion

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Denise Hazard-Lewis February 12 2014 at 9:18 PM

For those of you who are use to snow your city or town is prepared. For cities or towns not use to and/or it rarely happens are not and have to err on the side of caution

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Randy February 12 2014 at 2:17 PM

Its February.... in February it snows... In February rain freezes... In February it sleets.... and if you are in the MAJORITY of the northern hemisphere the odds are pretty good you will experience TYPICAL FEBRUARY during FEBRUARY.....

Flag Reply +4 rate up
2 replies
kenbushway Randy February 12 2014 at 2:20 PM

Yep none of that really happens in Ga, not unless your in the most northern part of the state, blue ridge area.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
vtmilitia Randy February 12 2014 at 2:23 PM

The problem is with MMGW this current crop of idiots, er generation, has never experienced anything like this or so the media portrays it. Common sense has been dropped from school curriculum because government does all the thinking for the unwashed masses. I need to heavily medicate myself now do to dire predictions of a foot of snow in my area. What ever shall I do?

Flag Reply +3 rate up
wat up johnny February 12 2014 at 8:54 PM

If you must go out, drive carefully, sensibly, slow down and live! and don't forget to fasten the seat belt! Spring will soon be here!

Flag Reply +4 rate up
magicevandude February 12 2014 at 2:13 PM

All is Quiet here in Indianapolis. Dont like being in a city that cant handle snow? move to Indy then. Oh and we will give you a side of lower taxes, unmatched affordability too :) Then well top it off with lots of jobs too.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
1 reply
semperfitexan magicevandude February 12 2014 at 2:38 PM

Indiana ? Are you crazy ,your unemployment is above the National Average . Do you have a State income tax ? Texas is #1 in job creation ,#1 energy producer , #1 in exports . I don't see where Indiana fits into any of that .

Flag Reply +2 rate up
AJ Duggal February 12 2014 at 10:06 PM

God bless and be safe very body.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
Marcia February 12 2014 at 2:01 PM

Thankful, I am.

I am living in an area where it is 50F ~ 70F degrees each and every day. No need for heat or a/c, nevermind a snow plow.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
1 reply
alberter65 Marcia February 12 2014 at 2:43 PM

Marcia, where do you live?

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Nancy February 12 2014 at 8:34 PM

Living in Erie, Pa, the number 1 snowiest place, My heart goes out to the people in these areas who arent used to driving in this. Just be safe people!!

Flag Reply +11 rate up
spudbays February 12 2014 at 5:41 PM

That is why I moved to Arizona. Yeah, the summers are a little brutal, but I don't have to dig out my car (after the snow plow, plowed it in), drive on ice and arrive at work looking like I was dragged through hell.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
drevil286 February 12 2014 at 1:55 PM

Look.....The North and the the Plains see this all the time. The South is like Cancun getting a Snow Event. It just simply doesn't happen that much. Oh, but I have seen plenty of Northern Auto plates on the side of the road during all Ice Events. Personally I like to see all the pros on here talking about the South and the Snow and Ice. Come down sometimes and take a drive around and see where your car ends up also. I don't like anyone taking chances anywhere and that is why we see the things on the news when people think they can drive on Ice. Please just stay safe wherever you live. God Bless.

Flag Reply +7 rate up
1 reply
dduval9967 drevil286 February 12 2014 at 2:10 PM

thats why they make studded snow tires and or chains.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
sclark2020 dduval9967 February 12 2014 at 2:28 PM

You can't use studded tires. It's been that way for 30 years or more. The only ones that can use chains is emergency vehicles.

Flag +1 rate up
lhall1016 February 12 2014 at 10:09 PM

Don't these people understand NORTHERN? Stay home!!!!!! Snow is serious business - we know!, Then don't come crying on TV when you were warned way ahead of time. Your politicians are not to blame this time!!! At least you don't have zero degree temps!

Flag Reply +2 rate up
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