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Jan 11, 2011 6:13 AM by Nichole Larkey & AP

Frozen South: Could be days before thaw comes

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - It could be days before icy, treacherous conditions improve for areas of the South hit by a wintry blast that sent cars sliding off the road, emptied grocery shelves and had officials nervously watching ice-laden powerlines and tree
limbs.
Snow ranging from several inches to more than a foot Sunday and Monday blanketed states from Louisiana to the Carolinas - a region where many cities have only a handful of snow plows, if any. And
more misery was on the way: The snow began turning to freezing rain in numerous areas, and low temperatures threatened to turn roads that may have thawed icy overnight.
"I had God with me this morning!" Yolanda Hill, manager of a Shell station north of Columbia, said of her drive to work. "I
drove in the middle of the street, but, hey, I'm here."
Freezing rain followed the snow in many spots, turning major highways into ice rinks and coating pine trees and power lines.
"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.
No widespread power outages had been reported, but many across the region fell asleep with flashlights by the bed and extra blankets at the ready in case the electricity went out and took
their heat with it as temperatures plunged into the 20s.
Most of North Carolina remained under a winter storm warning. Kym Littlejohn was heeding the governor's call for people to stay
home.
"The house is warm, we've got plenty of food, and we can watch TV," said Littlejohn, who was snowbound in her Charlotte home Monday after about five inches fell in her neighborhood. "As long
as we don't lose power, we'll be fine."
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 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 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.
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch for the
Big Apple from Tuesday evening through Wednesday afternoon, calling for the city and its suburbs to get between 6 and 12 inches of
snow.
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 for a second day Tuesday.
South Carolina troopers worked nearly 2,000 wrecks Monday, state
Highway Patrol Sgt. Kelley Hughes said. More were expected
overnight as the slush on major highways was freezing again. Like
many southern states, South Carolina has limited equipment to fight
frozen roads.
In all, it has about 800 pieces, and that's even using graders
to smooth asphalt to push away slush along with snow plows and salt
spreaders.
"You have no traction," Hughes said. "You're just rolling the
dice by even going out."
In Georgia, the storm forced inauguration ceremonies for newly
elected Gov. Nathan Deal to be moved inside from the state Capitol
steps. Arkansas officials planned to move their inauguration
indoors Tuesday.
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.
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!"
In Memphis, 21-year-old Ronni Jupson said the roads weren't as
bad as she feared they would be.
"I love snow, I'm not going to lie," she said. "I got really
nostalgic. I'm just sad that I have to be an adult and work."
---
Contributing to this story were Associated Press writers Dorie
Turner, Jason Bronis, Ray Henry, Debbie Newby and Greg Schreier in
Atlanta; Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Ala.; 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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