Many Southern US states get their 1st major blast of winter

2015-02-17 12:05


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Frankfort, Kentucky - The US South got its turn to suffer from snow, freezing rain and sleet in a storm that brought back memories of one from the same time a year ago.

After weeks of snow in the Northeast, winter weather had moved through Arkansas and Kentucky and was headed east.

While even small amounts of frozen precipitation can bring the region to a halt, the worst was yet to come: temperatures in the single digits Fahrenheit (below minus 13°C) in areas where electricity was threatened by coatings of ice on power lines.

This February storm arrived on Monday, the Presidents Day holiday, when many schools and businesses were already closed. But the day isn't a state holiday in North Carolina so schools let out early Monday and by the afternoon officials were cancelling classes Tuesday.

College campuses, from Appalachian State University in the western part of the state and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, canceled afternoon classes Monday.

State of emergency

In central Kentucky, home to much of the state's signature thoroughbred industry, horses kept warm by galloping through the deep snow, pausing occasionally to shake it off from their thick winter coats.

Ned Toffey, general manager of Spendthrift Farm in Lexington, said the horses enjoy running in the snow because it gives them a nice cushion as opposed to the harder, packed earth.

Roads were brined and parking lots salted as officials tried to avoid a disastrous repeat of last year's February storm, when rush-hour traffic and a thin coating of ice combined to leave people either stuck in their cars or their cars abandoned in roads as they walked home in Atlanta and Raleigh, North Carolina.

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory on Monday shut down all non-mandatory state government operations in Wake County in the early afternoon before any precipitation had fallen.

He also declared a state of emergency and issued executive orders designed to streamline any storm cleanup. He encouraged supervisors elsewhere in the state to use their discretion in sending employees home.

On Monday night, he said the forecast had worsened with more snow and ice expected in the central part of the state. The National Weather Service said the storm could be crippling.

Bitterly cold

In the Northeast, which has been slammed by seemingly endless snow, the snow had halted, but the weather was bitterly cold. New York City came close to breaking a 127-year-old record when the temperature in Central Park hit minus-16°C, just 2° above the record set in 1888, said Jeffrey Tongue, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

Boston Mayor Martin J Walsh said the latest snow storm left one person dead, apparently due to a heart attack while shovelling snow.

A partial roof collapse at an eight-building apartment complex in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, left 500 to 700 people looking for shelter. In New Jersey, a 66-year-old woman who had been drinking at a benefit was found dead in the snow, just two doors from her home. Fire-fighters working on a blaze in Philadelphia left behind a building coated in icicles. No one was hurt.

West Virginia was getting hit hard by the snowstorm when a train carrying crude oil derailed about 50km from Charleston. At least one tanker went into the Kanawha River and a nearby house caught fire. It wasn't clear if the winter storm had contributed to the crash.

After the storm marched across North Carolina, where almost all of the 100 counties were under some sort of weather alert, it was expected to move through the Mid-Atlantic and yes, back into the Northeast.

In the Washington, DC, region, officials asked motorists to stay off the roads, and hundreds of plows were out ahead of the storm, which was expected to dump up to 25cm in Virginia.

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