UK & World News

  • 29 January 2014, 9:02

Rare Winter Storm Takes Aim At Southern US

Southerners are bracing for a rare winter storm that threatens to bring snow, ice and sub-zero temperatures to a region more accustomed to air conditioners and sunscreen.

Residents from Texas to Virginia have been stocking up on fuel and groceries, schools and offices have closed, and road crews were at the ready.

The winter storm that would probably be no big deal in the North all but paralysed the Deep South, where folks have little experience driving on snow and ice.

Atlanta highways instantly became clogged with commuters who left work at the first sign of snow on Tuesday, and snowploughs that hardly ever leave the garage were sent rolling through the city.

Georgia State University student Alex Tracy was amused as he watched the weather-induced gridlock in downtown Atlanta.

"My family is from up north and we're use to driving in the snow and stuff, and seeing everyone freak out, sliding and stuff, it's pretty funny," he said.

Ice and snow is expected over the next two days for typically warm-weather destinations such as Charleston, South Carolina,Pensacola, Florida, Virginia Beach and New Orleans.

At a hardware store in the Georgia town of Cumming, snow shovels already were in short supply.

Patrons were also buying insulation, faucet covers, portable heaters and other cold-weather gear.

"We're fixing to put the ice melt out, and we've got plenty of sand here to mix in," store manager Tom Maronsaid.

Much of Georgia was placed under a winter storm watch for Tuesday and Wednesday, with some areas forecast to see as much as three inches (7.5cm) of snow.

But Jason Deese with the National Weather Service said the snow totals would "matter very little in this situation because of the ice potential".

He said: "Some parts of the state may end up seeing the greatest impact just because they get more ice than snow."

Investigators in rural Mississippi believe a heater was to blame for an early morning fire that killed four people in a mobile home.

Local officials said it was bitterly cold in the area overnight, with temperatures dipping to about 20F (-7C).

Snow began falling before dawn on Tuesday in the extreme northwest portion of Alabama.

In the Hampton Roads area of Virginia - which forecasters said could see a foot of snow - store shelves started emptying of staples such as bread by Monday night.

Schools and businesses planned to close early, with the storm expected to further clog an already-busy afternoon commute.

Nationwide, nearly 3,000 flights within, into or out of the US had been cancelled by 9am on Tuesday, according to statistics from the flight tracking service FlightAware.

Meanwhile, in the Midwest, plummeting temperatures and increasing winds took root for another day even as the storm moved south.

Several states in the central US saw schools and other facilities closed for a second consecutive day as dangerous wind chills were predicted.

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