South Wakes Up to Snow, Frigid Temps 01/17 06:22
ATLANTA (AP) -- The South awoke on Wednesday to a two-part Arctic mess.
First came a thin blanket of snow and ice, and then came the below-zero wind
The snowfall sabotaged morning rush hour even before it began, sending cars
crashing into each other on major thoroughfares throughout the region.
Officials urged people to stay off the slick roads if possible, and to bundle
up and wear layers of clothing if they ventured outside.
Ryan Willis, a meteorologist for the National Water Service based in
Peachtree City, south of Atlanta, said the forecast called for 1 to 1.5 inches
(2.5 to 4 centimeters) of snow to fall in metropolitan Atlanta through
Wednesday morning, with localized higher amounts.
Gov. Nathan Deal issued a state of emergency for 83 counties, spanning much
of central and north Georgia. This line extends from Columbus to Macon to
Augusta and northward. State government will be closed Wednesday in the
impacted areas for non-essential personnel.
Forecasters said travel could be difficult in north Georgia because of
below-zero (-18 Celsius) wind chills. Many Georgia school districts already had
announced early dismissal times and cancellations.
The same slippery conditions and dangerous wind chills swept across several
southern states Tuesday, shutting down interstates, triggering highway crashes,
closing airport runways and prompting widespread school closings. Snow fell in
a wide band that stretched from southeastern Texas all the way to western
Forecasters said up to 4 inches (10 centimeters) could fall in central North
Carolina as the system pushed northward, with a couple of inches expected
farther east. Northwestern South Carolina could get up to 2 inches (5
centimeters) of snow, the weather service said.
Snow also was forecast Wednesday for parts of Alabama, where Gov. Kay Ivey
shut down government offices as a precaution.
Many schools districts in Louisiana will remain closed for a second straight
day Wednesday, as the precipitation gives way to single-digit wind chills that
keep icy roads from thawing.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development announced the
closing of Interstate 10 in both directions between Baton Rouge and Lafayette.
Steep on and off-ramps as well as elevated roadways are concerns to public
safety in icy conditions, it said in a news release Wednesday night.
Alek Kroutmann, a National Weather Service meteorologist based in Slidell,
Louisiana, said the Baton Rouge forecast calling for a low of 19 degrees (-7
Celsius) Wednesday would fall just shy of the record for that date in
Louisiana's capital city: 18 degrees (-8 Celsius) on Jan. 17, 1977.
"It's very close to record low temperatures," he said.
Potentially hazardous wind chills prompted schools to close Tuesday across
Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky,
Kansas and Missouri.
In Kentucky, multiple crashes Tuesday closed a 10-mile (16-kilometer)
section of Interstate 24 in the western part of the state and blocked
southbound lanes of Interstate 65 in the south, including a five-vehicle pileup
involving a Greyhound bus that injured multiple people, authorities said.
Hundreds of flights were canceled at Texas airports, where frigid
temperatures left runways dangerously icy. Forecasters warned mariners along
the Texas coast to be on guard for gale-force winds.
"We've got numerous crashes on the interstates and surface roads," Louisiana
State Trooper Glenn Younger said Tuesday morning from Bossier City, Louisiana,
just across the Red River from Shreveport.
"You can't see the black ice; it's invisible," said Younger, who had been
driving roads since 5 a.m. Tuesday and could feel the back end of his patrol
car begin to slide at times.
"You want to just barely touch the brakes in that situation," he said. "A
lot of people get scared and they want to jam on the brakes, and that makes it
Ice had coated roads and bridges in 36 of Mississippi's 82 counties, mostly
in the northern and central parts of the state, the Mississippi Department of
Transportation said in a statement Tuesday morning. Some of the heaviest snow
in Mississippi was expected in the state's Delta region, where up to 3 inches
(7.6 centimeters) was possible.
In Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey declared a state of emergency meaning schools
won't have to make up lost class days. Numerous businesses and government
offices closed because of the threat.
Alabama officials were trying to avoid a repeat of four years ago, when a
winter storm blanketed central Alabama and left motorists stranded on roads in
metro Birmingham for hours. Teachers and students camped out in schools.
Drivers had a hard time navigating hills around the north Alabama city of
Haleyville, where roads quickly turned white Tuesday morning, but there was
still plenty of traffic because manufacturing plants that didn't close in
advance began dismissing workers, store clerk Rose Payne said.
"It's coming down as snow, but with these cars driving over it looks ice on
the ground," said Payne, who planned to walk home from her job at Friendly Shop
if roads got too bad. "The driveways of businesses are white."