Southerners struggle to dig out from heavy snow
Monday, January 10, 2022 7:49 PM

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(Source: Associated Press/AP Online)By DORIE TURNER

ATLANTA - Temperatures plummeted late Monday, turning slushy streets into sheets of ice across Southern states that are more accustomed to sunshine than snow. The wintry blast has grounded flights, cut power to thousands of homes and even forced Auburn University to cancel viewing parties for the national championship bowl game.

Snow ranging from several inches to more than a foot blanketed states from Louisiana to the Carolinas - a region where many cities have only a handful of snow plows, if any. In many areas, the snow began turning to freezing rain, making roads even more treacherous.

"If you're off the main roads, it's a skating rink," said Tim Loucks, manager of the Pilot Truck Stop in Haughton, La.

The storm shut down most cities and towns, closed many businesses, and canceled most flights at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the world's busiest. At least nine people were killed in weather-related traffic accidents.

Worried shoppers left grocery store shelves bare, and families without electricity huddled in dark, chilly homes. Predicted overnight lows in the 20s raised the threat of more outages as snow and freezing rain accumulated on tree branches and power lines.

"The problem here is that they're not used to it, so the equipment and the sanitation removal and the snow removal is not really geared for this kind of situation," said Tino Grana, 48, of New York City, who traveled to Atlanta to sell art at a downtown trade show.

Atlanta, which got 4 to 7 inches, has just eight snow plows. The city hired a fleet of 11 privately run trucks to help spread salt and gravel.

The heaviest snow fell in parts of Tennessee that received as much as 13 inches.

The weather began rolling across the South on Sunday, coating bridges and roads with snow, sleet and freezing rain. The governors of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee declared emergencies. Schools and colleges called off classes.

More than 2,000 flights were canceled around the South - affecting passengers as far away as Scandinavia - and Atlanta's airport was nearly deserted on what would normally be a busy Monday morning.

For those whose flights made it to Atlanta, the sight of snow-covered runways was disorienting.

Larry and Judy Keefauver, of Buffalo, N.Y., thought their flight from Sacramento had landed somewhere else when they looked out the window.

"I have been flying (through Atlanta) since the early '70s, and I've never landed on snow here ever," said Larry Keefauver, 62.

In Georgia, the storm forced inauguration ceremonies for newly elected Gov. Nathan Deal deal to be moved inside from the state Capitol steps. The inaugural gala was scrapped to keep supporters off the roads. Arkansas officials planned to move their inauguration indoors Tuesday.

And in Alabama, Auburn University students looked for somewhere other than campus to watch the Tigers play in the championship bowl game Monday after the school canceled all viewing parties. Gov. Bob Riley called off his trip to Glendale, Ariz., to see the game in person.

In tiny Oxford, Miss., where the historic town square got 8 inches of snow, city workers used backhoes to clean up because they had no snow plows.

"They aren't as good as plows, but they do a pretty good job," Mayor Pat Patterson said.

Drivers struggled to stay on slippery pavement, and roads were littered with abandoned vehicles. Some motorists got out in the middle of the interstate to push their cars up ice-covered ramps.

"Towns down here just don't have the equipment to deal with this much snow," said Joel Weems, a worker at the University of Mississippi.

Icy roads were blamed in separate accidents that killed two people in Louisiana, two in Oklahoma and one each in Kansas and Alabama. Three more drivers were killed in Arkansas when they veered off the pavement.

A number of motorists were stranded overnight along Interstate 30 from Little Rock into southwestern Arkansas after jackknifed trailers blocked the highway for hours at a time.

"Once one accident was cleared, the traffic would move, and then another truck or two would jackknife," state police spokesman Bill Sadler said.

Conditions were unlikely to improve anytime soon. Temperatures should stay below freezing for days, and more snow is predicted. That means treacherous travel conditions could persist until Wednesday or beyond.

The storm system was expected to spread north to Ohio and could hit the snow-weary Northeast later in the week. A Christmas blizzard dumped more than 2 feet of snow on New York City and other parts of the region, crippling holiday travel and nearly shutting down major cities.

At Blackhawk Hardware in Charlotte, owner Jim Wilkerson was hoping for a Tuesday delivery of shovels and ice melt. There was only one problem: the warehouse is in snowy Atlanta, and as of Monday afternoon couldn't even get enough workers in to load trucks.

"We've had about 1,000 calls, but we ran out of ice melt, shovels and sleds by the time we opened on Sunday," he said. "We could have sold 5,000 shovels if we'd had them."

But the latest storm also offered kids - and some adults acting like kids - a rare chance to play in the snow.

"I'm trying to have a snowball fight with my friend," said 15-year-old Connor Ormond of Columbia, S.C., as he trotted to a friend's house, snowball in hand. "This is the most snow I've ever seen!"

Sean Fink, owner of Palmetto Boxing Academy in Columbia, and his friends were "sledding" along the streets of his neighborhood in a plastic pool towed by a pickup truck.

"We got a kiddie pool and a rope and tied it to a bumper," Fink said. "I feel like a kid today."

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Contributing to this story were Associated Press writers Jason Bronis, Carol Druga, Ray Henry, Debbie Newby and Greg Schreier in Atlanta; Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Ala.; Page Ivey in Columbia, S.C.; Schuyler Dixon in Dallas; David Brandt and Holbrook Mohr in Jackson, Miss.; Alan Sayre in New Orleans; Kristin M. Hall in Nashville, Tenn.; and Murray Evans in Oklahoma City.

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