Wintry mix in US South snarls traffic, closes schools

Snow and ice turned highways across the South into parking lots on Tuesday and caused schools to close, while hundreds of crashes on slick roads created havoc for commuters.

Reuters| Last Updated: Feb 25, 2015, 09:04 AM IST

 North Carolina: Snow and ice turned highways across the South into parking lots on Tuesday and caused schools to close, while hundreds of crashes on slick roads created havoc for commuters.

The storm surprised North Carolina, where weather models were slow to predict snowfall that resulted in dangerous driving on many roads that had not been treated in advance.

"There was a lot of sliding, a lot of fish-tailing," Amy Croom, a copy writer in Winston-Salem, said of her morning drive to work.

Concerned about the safety of her 19-month-old son, she abandoned her SUV in a parking lot and caught a ride with her husband. "It was a little scary," she said.

In Durham, children who had boarded buses were returned home after schools announced a delayed start and then completely closed for the day. Some students in Chapel Hill were stuck at schools on Tuesday until their parents could pick them up or officials deemed it safe to send them home by bus.

The snow reached as far east as the North Carolina coast, and the National Weather Service said temperature records for the date were broken over much of the eastern United States. Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia recorded a record low of minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit, shattering the previous record of 14 degrees set in 1967.

Another wintry mix has been forecast for the South starting on Wednesday, with expectations for freezing rain and several more inches of snow.

A 24-year-old man died in a weather-related crash on Tuesday in Utica, Mississippi, after he lost control of his vehicle and slammed into a tractor-trailer, local officials said.

Counties in north and central Mississippi reported icing on bridges and overpasses, and wrecks on two interstate highways in the Jackson area snarled traffic, officials said.

Crews in northern Georgia and the Atlanta area worked overnight to treat roads before snow, sleet and rain hit on Tuesday, said Natalie Dale, spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Atlanta roads were not too troublesome because the wintry mix turned to rain, but there were accidents on slush-covered streets in northern Georgia. "Some drivers seem to be overconfident when they should be taking it slow," Dale said.

The latest winter weather followed an ice storm in parts of Texas on Monday, cutting off power to thousands and resulting in hundreds of traffic accidents and more than 1,500 airline flight cancellations.