Icy, snowy weekend pounds Southeast

  • Sat Jan 30th, 2010 1:33pm
  • News

Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A storm that blanketed the South with snow today had children eager to sled down hills, while grown-ups were warned to stay off slippery roads as officials worked to clear a mess of wrecks and downed power lines.

Nearly a foot of snow had fallen in parts of western North Carolina, and nearly 10 inches had fallen in some areas north of Memphis, Tenn. In Nashville, about a half-foot of snow was on the ground, the National Weather Service reported.

Jake Guthrie, manager of a Nashville Ace Hardware, pasted a “Sold Out of Sleds” sign at the entrance of the store after selling “several hundred” in the past two days. Workers had to tell a steady stream of callers that they wouldn’t have any more sleds until Friday.

“But winter’s not over yet,” Guthrie said.

Few cars were on roads around the city, and most people seemed to be hunkered down indoors. Some ventured out on camouflage all-terrain vehicles usually reserved for hunting season.

The DuBose family was enjoying a second day of sledding on Nashville’s outskirts.

“We ran over the dogs yesterday, so we left them at home today,” said Jane DuBose, 47, as her two sons, ages 8 and 12, were sledding down the entrance ramp to a closed road.

In Smyrna, southeast of Nashville, a high school bowling tournament was postponed after snow and ice caused the roof to collapse at the bowling alley where it was to be held, according to the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association.

The weather also cut short a farewell celebration at the National Zoo in Washington for young panda Tai Shan, who will be flown to China on Thursday to become part of a breeding program.

The storm left roads icy and snowpacked across the South, and thousands were without power as ice accumulated. Although police said they had to clear hundreds of wrecks overnight, there were no deaths or serious injuries reported.

Will O’Halloran, publisher of City Social Magazine in Baton Rouge, La., got caught in the storm in both directions of his monthly trip to pick up the publication from a printer outside Louisville, Ky. At one point he thought his headlights were broken, only to find they were covered in ice.

“People are crazy out there,” O’Halloran, 49, said over breakfast at a McDonald’s outside Nashville. “Cars spinning, trailers jackknifed. I just tried to keep it at 40 mph and move along.”

In mountainous western North Carolina, I-26 near Asheville and I-40 near Black Mountain were shut down Friday night after snow and icy roads caused multiple wrecks. Duke Energy reported about 35,000 outages in the state, mostly in the western mountains.

North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue declared a state of emergency today, and 30 National Guard soldiers were standing by to help emergency crews. However, officials said the storm was not as bad as they had predicted.

States of emergency also were declared in Arkansas, Tennessee and parts of Virginia.

North Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper Gene Williams told the Citizen-Times of Asheville that 530 wrecks were reported overnight — including a snowplow that overturned — though no one was seriously hurt. Virginia State Police said they worked hundreds of calls overnight. As much as six inches of snow had fallen in southeastern parts of the state.

In Kentucky, the state transportation cabinet said in a news release that about 5 to 6 inches of snow had fallen in most of the state, with nearly a foot piling up closer to the Tennessee line.

In South Carolina, officials said the storm wasn’t as bad as they had feared, but some residents scrambled to stores in preparation. In Landrum, in northern South Carolina, Travis Pittman told the Herald-Journal of Spartanburg he and his mother were stocking up on movies, gas for a generator, and “of course, milk and bread.”

Temperatures around the region were forecast to remain low through the weekend.

Meanwhile, states in the storm’s wake were uncovering from inches of snow and caked ice that fouled electricity to hundreds of thousands of customers.

Gov. Brad Henry requested a federal disaster declaration for all of Oklahoma after a massive storm left up to a half-inch of ice on trees and power lines. A spokeswoman for Public Service Co. of Oklahoma, Andrea Chancellor, said it could be five days before electricity is restored to all customers.

The storm has been blamed for the death of a 70-year-old Oklahoma woman in a propane explosion. The woman and her husband had apparently been using propane heaters to warm their house in Ada, Assistant Fire Chief Robby Johnson said. The woman, who was not identified, died and her husband was injured when a propane tank exploded Friday morning.