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South waits for thaw as storm aims for Northeast

By PAGE IVEY,Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 10:18 a.m. HST, Jan 11, 2011


COLUMBIA, S.C.  — A winter storm that threatened to keep the South iced over until the end of the week was heading Tuesday for the storm-battered Northeast, leaving behind glassy and treacherous roads, snapped power lines and stranded travelers.

Temperatures were expected to stay low enough to keep snow and ice on the ground for several more days in southern states where many cities have only a handful of snow plows, if any. Snow ranging from several inches to more than a foot blanketed a swath from Louisiana to the Carolinas.

Freezing rain in some areas added to the misery, and schools around the region remained closed for a second day. Officials urged people to stay off the roads after the storm trapped motorists on highways in Georgia and Arkansas.

Trucker Vernon Cook, 67, said Tuesday that he's been stuck on an Atlanta-area interstate ramp for almost 24 hours in a long line of tractor trailers that can't move because of the ice.

"I've been a trucker for 46 years and have seen nothing like this," said Cook, who's taking synthetic rubber from Texas to North Carolina.

While the South waits for warmer temperatures to help its beleaguered road crews, the Northeast was bracing for its third snowstorm in less than three weeks. Snow was expected to begin falling in New York City a day after Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration admitted a series of mistakes in its handling of a Christmas weekend blizzard that crippled travel along the East Coast. A winter storm warning was issued through Wednesday, with the heaviest snow expected overnight.

New York and its suburbs could get 8 to 14 inches of snow, with wind gusts up to 35 mph, forecasters said. Long Island could get as much as 15 inches.

Already, the system is blamed for at least 11 deaths and numerous injuries. In a suburb of Charlotte, N.C., 7-year-old Sara King was in critical condition a day after she was hit by a van while sledding. A nursing supervisor said surgeons were operating on her Tuesday.

Elsewhere around the South, thousands were without power. 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. About 1,900 flights were canceled around the region Tuesday, according to flight-tracking website FlightAware, rivaling the number canceled the previous day.

More than 300 passengers stranded at an Atlanta bus station were given bologna sandwiches, blankets and bottled water by a nearby jail. The Salvation Army and a local McDonald's also brought food to the weary bus riders, some of whom were sprawled on the floor to try to sleep.

Greg Walton, 32, of Orlando, Fla., said his bus started losing traction and the battery eventually died when it neared Atlanta. He's been stuck at the station since being ferried there on another bus Monday.

"The bring us here, then they just declared martial law on us," he said, jokingly.

Though people were urged to stay off the roads, construction worker Bill Lee Jackson ventured out to a Greenville, S.C., grocery store to pick up staples. A normally 10-minute trip to the store took 30, as he slid in spots.

The 31-year-old fumed that impassable roads are keeping him from working on a renovation project.

"When are they going to do something?" he said. "This is costing me money. It snows and everything shuts down. I'm fed up. I know I shouldn't be. Nothing I can do about it. But it's aggravating."

Mike Reynolds was waiting at a Greenville gas station for a tow truck to pull his car out of the mixture of snow and ice.

"This really sucks," said Reynolds, 26, who works at a convenience store. "I told my boss what happened and that I was going to be late, but I'm not sure he believed me."

Conditions were unlikely to improve anytime soon. Temperatures should stay below freezing for days, and more snow is predicted — adding to the task of overworked road crews.

Atlanta, which has gotten 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 arctic 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.

But the storm also offered kids — and some adults — 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 report were Associated Press photographers Mike Stewart and David Goldman in Atlanta and AP writers Dorie Turner and Don Schanche in Atlanta; Adrian Sainz in Memphis; and Mitch Weiss in Greenville, S.C.






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