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Ice storm causes another traffic jam in the south


ATLANTA (AP) -- Drivers got caught in monumental traffic jams and abandoned their cars Wednesday in North Carolina in a replay of what happened in Atlanta just two weeks ago, as another wintry storm across the South iced highways and knocked out electricity to more than a half-million homes and businesses.

While Atlanta's highways were clear, apparently because people learned their lesson the last time, thousands of cars lined the slippery, snow-covered interstates around Raleigh, N.C., and short commutes turned into hours-long journeys.

As the storm glazed the South with snow and freezing rain, it also 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.

At least nine traffic deaths across the region were blamed on the treacherous weather, and nearly 3,300 airline flights nationwide were canceled.

The situation in North Carolina was eerily similar to what happened in Atlanta: As snow started to fall around midday, everyone left work at the same time, despite warnings from officials to stay home because the storm would move in quickly.

Soo Keith of Raleigh left work about a little after noon, thinking she would have plenty of time to get home before the worst of the snow hit.

Instead, Keith, who is three months pregnant, drove a few miles in about two hours and decided to park and start walking, wearing dress shoes and a coat that wouldn't zip over her belly.

With a blanket draped over her shoulders, she made it home more than four hours later, comparing her journey to the blizzard scene from the movie "Dr. Zhivago."

"My face is all frozen, my glasses are all frozen, my hair is all frozen," the mother of two and Chicago native said as she walked the final mile to her house. "I know how to drive in the snow. But this storm came on suddenly and everyone was leaving work at the same time. I don't think anybody did anything wrong; the weather just hit quickly."

Caitlin Palmieri drove two blocks from her job at a bread store in downtown Raleigh before getting stuck. She left her car behind and walked back to work.

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

Forecasters warned of a potentially "catastrophic" storm across the South with more than an inch of ice possible in places. Snow was forecast overnight, with up to 3 inches possible in Atlanta and much higher amounts in the Carolinas.

As the day wore on, power outages climbed 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, South Carolina had about 245,000 outages, and 100,000 people in North were without power. 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. In Myrtle Beach, S.C., palm trees were covered with a thick crust of ice.

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.

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.

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.

South Prepares for 'Catastropic' Storm

In normally busy downtown areas of Atlanta, almost every business was closed except for a pharmacy. Snow blanketed the ground around the tombstones at a historic cemetery in Decatur, including the graves of a Confederate private and a delegate to the Secession Convention.

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.

---

Associated Press writers Ray Henry and Jeff Martin in Atlanta; Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Ala.; and Russ Bynum in Savannah, Ga., contributed to this report.

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jeannettemccloud February 12 2014 at 2:33 PM

I was born and raised in South Georgia and during that time Atlanta would was known for getting ice storms because it's at the foothills of the Applachians. Southern states are not prepared for the snow and rarely, ice, but people in the North and other states think it's funny and like to laugh when it happens in the South. Well, it's not funny and it is a hardship on the people that live there. They don't have the clothing, heating systems or equipment for such storms. When I moved up North with my husband my winter clothes were Fall clothes for Ohio.....laugh all you want, but just remember that the South endures more severe weather in tornadoes and hurricanes than the North. So, with the recent changes in the weather wouldn't it be interesting if the Northern states got hit with hurricanes and more tornadoes? Anyway, where would the people up North go for sunshine? I have always found it interesting that most Northerners look down upon the southern people, but they sure love to soak up that sunshine and warm weather when the snow and cold weather is so severe up North. Florida would be more overpopulated than it is with Northerners if there was no sunshine to escape to in the cold bleak winter months in the North. Laugh, on......but that only goes to show your own ignorance when it comes to weather conditions throughout this country. Isn't it nice to be able to enjoy so many different types of weather in our country within just a few hours’ drive? I try to look at the sunny side of things that each part of our country offers that we can enjoy all types of weather under good and bad conditions. It's not funny and those people are hurting, just put yourself in their place with a severe storm in your own town or city. I never saw snow or ice storms until I moved to Ohio; but it didn't make me want to run back home, because it was different and it's still part of our United States of America. I'm sure I will be laughed at but it's time to say what I think for a change. I have listened to enough of what others have to say.

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BRIAN February 12 2014 at 1:26 PM

Of course ive lived up North for awhile so I knowwhat a real winter can be not these confused southern boyz LOLOL

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BRIAN February 12 2014 at 1:24 PM

The sad thing is most people dont have the forsight to plan for such situations they become lazy an to dependent for thier needs,I have Propane which will provide heat if the power should fail as long as its not to long,and would like to put in a potbelly stove as well

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maxcranium February 12 2014 at 1:07 PM

I think that you are going to far with commercials.
Believe it oe not, I don't need to see your weather map.
And definitely not your adds...

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joan February 12 2014 at 12:51 PM

Good job Ga. looks like you learned your lesson.

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CAIN February 12 2014 at 12:48 PM

WE ARE LIVING IN THE GREATEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD ! WE HELP SO MUCH POOR COUNTRIES...GOD BLESS AMERICA !!

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Richard February 12 2014 at 12:47 PM

Global warming!?? Look out we're all going to freeze due to global warming. Obama and the dems better pass the carbon emission tax while they still have control of the Senate and Executive branches. This way they can kill even more jobs and make those evil rich folks give more of their money to the poor folks so they can pay their enormous power bills.

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Sarah February 12 2014 at 12:55 PM

Richard, don't give them any hints - remember, he doesn't need to follow the Constitution, just his phone & his pen!

Coldest winter we've seen in years - here in the South - so much for what USED to be 'Global Warming' which now is renamed "climate change" - just like 'you can keep your Dr' or your 'insurance' don'cha'know?

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CAIN February 12 2014 at 12:45 PM

LETS PRAY FOR THESE PEOPLE, WE ARE SUFFERING IN NYC TOO....

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vtmilitia February 12 2014 at 12:50 PM

They voted Deblasio in so let them suffer with their choice.

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cpags1@verizon.net February 12 2014 at 1:10 PM

I did not vote for him

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Pat February 12 2014 at 12:44 PM

Got a lull after daylight and got dogs out for AM potty runs. We are hunkered back down hoping for another lull around sundown for their PM outing. If we get that and keep power on, my household is good and will survive another one. I remember the storms in 20000 & '73. So far, this one does not compare. Maybe because I'm retired now and have no reason to try to go anywhere.

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Sarah February 12 2014 at 1:01 PM

Let's hope it doesn't compare to 2000 - or even to 1982, etc......we're weren't in metro area in '73 - but ain't it strange how nawtherners don't know what ICE can do - or in metor area, how difficult it is to call due to it going to ice or snow - or nothing?

We're in lull also & hoping it stays - but not what we're hearing from forecasts.
Take care, stay warm & ain't it nice all those who love to knock the South are OFF the roads instead of hearing their bashing, Pat?
Just more than a bit tired of how we were 'caught off guard' - that Nat. Weather Service did not issue an ALERT over the National Weather radio at 3:45 AM last time - as our weather radio did NOT go off til the next afternoon - never heard that brought out & wondered why?
That ALERT will wake you from sound sleep for a reason - didn't happen 2 wks ago!

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bobcornerstone February 12 2014 at 12:43 PM

Think i'll go play a round or two....lets see do i need a sweater, no i guess not here. The rest of you folks do the right thing ( stay home)

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