Snow and ice leave four dead, shut down Deep South

By Matthew Bigg

ATLANTA, Georgia (BestGrowthStock) – Snow and ice carpeted much of the U.S. Deep South on Monday, leaving at least four people dead, cutting off power to thousands and closing countless roads, authorities said.

Up to nine inches of snow fell in highland parts of the South with lesser amounts in North and South Carolina, Tennessee, and Mississippi, but authorities said a bigger problem was icy roads.

“Bad everywhere,” is how Nicholas Stembridge of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, described roads in his state.

One person died overnight in a weather-related accident in western Alabama, and a second died in central Alabama, according to Yasamie Richardson, spokesman for the Alabama Emergency Management Agency.

Two others died on icy roads in northern Louisiana, authorities said.

“Any time you have ice on the road it is more of a concern than snow,” said Richardson.

Georgia and Alabama declared states of emergency, and authorities closed schools and government offices across Georgia and in parts of Alabama, South Carolina and Mississippi.

“We are seeing the ice accumulation across the middle part of the state increasing so roads are deteriorating. But hopefully the lack of folks on the road will lessen the need for emergency services,” said Ken Davis, spokesman for Georgia Emergency Management Agency.

The storm was expected to move north up the coast to the northeast, where a winter storm watch was in effect for late Tuesday and early Monday, forecasters said.

Boston could get hit with 12 to 15 inches of snow, and New York City could get 6 to 12 inches, the National Weather Service said.

The storm battering the south was likely to mix with an upper level disturbance in the northern Great Plains heading east, producing heavy snow, winds and low visibility, forecasters said.

“It’s a complex system,” NWS meteorologist Rick Watling said. “Those two are going to interact with each other.”

New York has barely dug out from the Christmas weekend blizzard, which dumped 20 inches on December 26 and 27.

The storm brought the city to a halt, and officials have come under criticism for failing to plow streets and keep its transportation systems and emergency responses running.

At City Council hearings into the response to the storm on Monday, Deputy New York Mayor for Operations Stephen Goldsmith apologized, saying: “We owe you and all New Yorkers for that lack of performance our administration’s apology, and my personal promise not to let it happen again.”

In Atlanta, Delta, the dominant carrier at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport, canceled more than 1,450 flights, including those operated by its regional affiliates. Spokesman Anthony Black said the figure represented about 25 percent of all planned Delta flights for the day.

AirTran Holdings Inc spokesman Christopher White said the discount carrier canceled 330 flights on Monday.

Davis said at least 30 state highways and countless minor or suburban roads were closed.

South Carolina woke up to snow, sleet and black ice on roadways all the way to the coast. Accumulations of 9 inches were reported in the upper northwest corner, with 4-6 inches reported in Greenville.

State offices and schools in upstate South Carolina including Greenville were closed and state capital Columbia expected up to an inch-and-a-half of ice, authorities said.

In Alabama, Huntsville airport was closed while Birmingham Airport was working to clear one runway. In Mississippi, up to eight inches of snow was reported in northern areas.

(Additional reporting by Verna Gates and Peggy Gargis in Birmingham, Leigh Coleman in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, Harriet McLeod in South Carolina, Tim Ghianni in Tennessee, Karen Jacobs in Atlanta, and Dan Trotta and Jonathan Allen in New York)

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Jerry Norton)