A man carrying groceries makes his way to a bus stop as snow falls in Charlotte, North Carolina. REUTERS/Chris Keane
A deadly winter storm has brought heavy snow, freezing rain
and a possibly historic accumulation of ice to the
southeastern United States, causing hundreds of thousands of
power outages and treacherous driving conditions,
The worsening storm stretched from eastern Texas to the
Carolinas, and is likely to reach the Middle Atlantic states
by late Wednesday, National Weather Service meteorologist
Roger Edwards said.
Power outages spread rapidly as temperatures dropped.
More than 110,000 Georgia Power customers were without
electricity on Wednesday, with most outages reported in
metropolitan Atlanta. Some customers may have to wait up to a
week for power to be restored, said Georgia Power spokeswoman
"It does appear that the storm could have an even greater
impact than we originally had predicted," she said.
The wintry mix had already caused two weather-related traffic
deaths in Mississippi and three in northern Texas earlier in
the week, authorities said. The state Highway Patrol in South
Carolina had responded to 273 weather-related calls for
Nearly 3,000 U.S. flights were canceled and hundreds more
delayed early on Wednesday, according to flight-tracking
Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta was
hardest hit, with more than 800, or 69 percent of flights,
canceled, FlightAware.com said. Delta Air Lines and AirTran,
the two dominant carriers there, had the most cancellations
as of Wednesday morning.
"Atlanta is all but shut down. None of our approximately 155
departures scheduled for today is operating," said spokesman
Brad Hawkins of Southwest Airlines, which operates AirTran.
Up to three-quarters of an inch (2 cm) of ice was expected in
a broad section of Georgia, including metropolitan Atlanta.
Some areas could see more than 1 inch (2.5 cm).
The Interstate 20 corridor from north central and
northeastern Georgia into South Carolina would be among the
hardest hit by icy conditions, said meteorologist Edwards.
Snowfall totals were expected to be unusually high in the
region, with nearly 8 inches forecast for Charlotte, North
Carolina, and 9 inches for Spartanburg, South Carolina. Parts
of the state, from the mountains to the coast, had already
seen heavy snowfall.
"It is going to be a tough 48 hours," said North Carolina
Governor Pat McCrory, noting that toppled trees and downed
power lines were likely to create hazardous travel
Edward Clay, 40, who lives in Greer, South Carolina, decided
against driving to Asheville, North Carolina, for his job as
a construction project superintendent, even though snow
flurries were just beginning.
"I could get to Asheville easy," he said. "Getting back to
South Carolina is the problem. It's going to be an all-around
bad day to be on the road."
Government officials were quick to make plans to deal with
the impact of the storm, following another two weeks ago that
paralyzed Atlanta-area roads and forced more than 11,000
students in Alabama to spend the night at their schools.
Hundreds of schools and government offices across the South
were closed on Wednesday, and shelters were opened in Georgia
and Alabama to help those stranded by the storm.
Conditions deteriorated overnight as a swath of the Deep
South, from Alabama through South Carolina, was deluged with
rain, sleet and snow, Edwards said.
A tractor-trailer carrying milk jack-knifed on Interstate 285
around Atlanta early on Wednesday, said state transportation
department spokeswoman Natalie Dale.
Overall, the traffic volume was light.
"People really seem to be heeding the warnings and staying
off the roads," Dale added.
The last significant ice storm in Georgia was in January
2000, when up to half an inch (1.3 cm) of ice left more than
350,000 people without power, weather service meteorologist
Dan Darbe said.
With the latest storm, "we're talking a much larger area and
a much larger amount of ice", he said.
Winter storm watches reached into the Northeast, where heavy
snow and possible ice was expected as the storm moved up the
eastern seaboard on Thursday.