POSTED: 10:50 a.m. HST, Jan 9, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 3:01 p.m. HST, Jan 9, 2011
JACKSON, Miss. — A blast of winter weather pushed across the South on Sunday, coating bridges and roads with snow, sleet and freezing rain and causing hundreds of flight cancelations.
The governors of Louisiana, Alabama and Georgia issued emergency declarations. Alabama Gov. Bob Riley said workers had readied snow and salt trucks to help clear icy roads, and he asked all residents to stay home Sunday night and Monday unless it is imperative that they have to travel.
Mississippi officials warned motorists that ice was accumulating on roads and bridges in many counties, creating hazardous driving conditions.
The National Weather Service posted winter storm warnings from east Texas to the Carolinas.
Daniel Lamb, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Jackson, Miss., said heavy snow had fallen Sunday afternoon from Arkansas to north Mississippi. Other areas of the South saw freezing rain and sleet.
Forecasters expected the most extreme conditions in Mississippi and northern Louisiana overnight with the possibility of heavy ice accumulation in places, including in the Atlanta metro area.
"And since it's going to be pretty cold over the next few days, we could see whatever accumulates sticking around for a few days," Lamb said.
Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas were expecting icy weather overnight.
The anticipated storm forced Georgia officials to move Monday's inauguration of newly elected Gov. Nathan Deal from the state Capitol steps inside to the shelter of the House chamber. The inaugural gala was scrapped to keep supporters off treacherous roads.
Hundreds of flights were canceled at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Steady sleet was falling in counties south of the city.
Delta Air Lines canceled 330 flights starting about 8 p.m. Sunday and another 1,400 flights Monday. AirTran Airways canceled 14 flights for Sunday and another 270 for Monday, spokesman Christopher White said.
Both airlines are allowing passengers whose flights are canceled to change them without fees.
Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport spokesman David Magana said 200 flights, or about a quarter of the schedule, were canceled in anticipation of the weather.
In eastern Tennessee, the Weather Service said 4 to 6 inches of snow could fall by Sunday evening, with the heaviest hitting early Monday.
Louisiana authorities closed portions of Interstate 220 and many churches from Louisiana to Alabama canceled Sunday night services.
The worship leader at one prepared to use a web camera to broadcast an abbreviated worship service over the Internet from his home since members couldn't make it to church.
"I'll just do one or two acoustic songs, something like that, just to keep it going until next week," said Ben Nelson of Helena United Methodist Church, located in suburban Birmingham.
Officials closed a bridge over the Black Warrior River in Tuscaloosa until workers could spread sand across a sheet of ice that formed quickly on the roadway. Numerous schools called off classes for Monday in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.
Auburn University students must go somewhere other than campus to watch the Tigers play in the national championship bowl game Monday. The university has canceled all viewing parties and other events planned as the state prepares for severe winter weather.
Associated Press writers Dorie Turner in Atlanta, Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Ala., and Schuyler Dixon in Dallas contributed to this story.