The Heat Is Online

Surprise Snows Bury Southern States

Winter storm moves east

Julie Galle & Stephanie Watson, The Weather Channel, weather.com Jan. 28, 2000
The winter storm that slammed into Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas, dumping as much as a foot of snow earlier this week, is now bringing wintry precipitation to parts of Alabama and Georgia. Alabama residents of Huntsville, Muscle Shoals and Birmingham awoke to several inches of snow on the ground Friday. Clouds hovered over parts of Georgia, including Super Bowl city Atlanta, where residents and visitors in town for the NFL championship game braced for the worst and airlines cancelled flights.

Georgia

Atlanta residents expecting to see snow were disappointed Friday, as the wintry white only made a brief appearance in Carroll County, in northwest Georgia. At around 8:00 p.m. (EST), the first sleet began to fall across the Atlanta metro area, and within an hour the Georgia Department of Transportation (D.O.T.) reported icing on area roadways. The D.O.T. began sending out trucks to sand bridges and overpasses, but cautioned motorists to stay indoors unless absolutely necessary.

Just in time for Super Sunday, Atlanta will be hit with another major ice storm, say meteorologists at The Weather Channel. Sleet was expected to change over into freezing rain overnight, a frightening prospect after last weekend's devastating storm. A bout of freezing rain last Saturday paralyzed the city and left more than half a million people without electricity.

Georgia Power, which provides electricity to about 1.8 million residents in the Atlanta area, has mobilized more than 4,000 workers in advance of the storm. Company spokeswoman Carol Boatright said southern Atlanta and central Georgia were expected to take the worst hit, and hundreds of workers had been diverted to those areas.

Delta Airlines, the largest carrier at Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport, cancelled about 40 percent of its flights in and out of the city on Friday, accoridng to Zenzi Whitsett, airport Spokesperson. She said that she had received no word of other airlines canceling flights, but she advised travelers to consult their airlines before heading to the airport.

Thursday night, grocery stores were packed with people stocking up on storm supplies. Many of them were caught off guard by last weekend's ice storm, and were taking no chances this time around.


Alabama

Alabama was spared the worst of the storm, receiving only a gentle blanket of snow in most areas by Friday afternoon. Roads across the state were open as of the evening, but with temperatures dropping overnight, there was still a possiblity that they could turn icy.

Late Thursday and Friday there were a few trouble spots as the storm moved in. Many roads glazed over with ice, causing cars to slip and slide. Between 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday evening, 84 weather-related accidents were reported across the state, with 14 injuries, said the Alabama Department of Public Safety.

Slick conditions during Friday morning's rush hour prompted the assistance of the National Guard, who were called in to help emergency personnel get to work in Muscle Shoals, in the northwestern part of the state.

Digging out
Julie Galle & Stephanie Watson, weather.com Jan. 28, 2000

A powerful winter storm slid across Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee Thursday and Friday, leaving behind a wintry mess and days of clean up ahead.

Texas & Oklahoma

Thursday’s snowfall and ice in Oklahoma and Texas was responsible for numerous travel delays. Tulsa International Airport, which received about seven inches of snow, was in snow operation mode most of the day Thursday. Snow removal crews worked in half-hour on, half-hour off shifts, clearing the runways and allowing for planes to take off and land for 30 minutes every hour. The airport reported several cancelled flights and delays, due to winter weather in other cities. Dallas-Fort Worth International and Will Rogers World airports also reported a few cancellations.

Snow on the roads slowed traffic considerably. The Oklahoma Highway patrol responded to 10 accidents during Friday morning's rush hour, according to Lieutenant Stewart Meyer. Fortunately, there were no reports of fatalities or serious injuries.

Arkansas

A rare snowfall blanketed Little Rock, Arkansas with six and one half inches Thursday, more than doubling the previous record, said the National Weather Service (NWS). That was as much snow as the city has received in the past four years, and the first measurable snowfall since February of 1997.

While the snow was pretty to look at, it was making things miserable on the state's highways. A 40 mile stretch of I-30 between Prescott and Arkadelphia was littered with about 300 tractor trailer rigs which either jacknifed or slid off the road, said Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department spokesman Randy Ort. The combination of trucks and abandoned cars along the roads created a virtual blockade early Friday, stalling traffic for miles.

The National Guard was called in to clear out the big rigs, and Ort says traffic was moving Friday evening, but slowly. The Transportation Department is encouraging motorists to avoid I-30 between Little Rock and Texarkana, and instead use US 67, which runs parallel.

The Little Rock Airport was open as of Friday morning, but was reporting only one runway in operation and numerous flight delays.

Fort Smith, Arkansas virtually shut down Friday, after 11 inches of snowfall halted drivers in their tracks and brought the city in a standstill. The city received some of the heaviest snowfall produced by the storm. Only emergency personnel went to work Friday at government agencies, and most businesses were closed, according to Sgt. Jeff Barrows, Public Information Officer for the Ft. Smith Police Department.

It may take a while for things to return to normal. "We’re going to rely on the sun for most of our snow removal," said Barrows. The city does not own snow removal equipment. They do have sand, and crews worked feverishly to keep bridges, steep grades, and overpasses clear as the snow fell yesterday.

Unfortunately, the sand can only do so much when there are several inches of snow on the ground, according to Barrows.

He said the city has not invested in snow removal equipment because a snowfall like the one that blanketed the city yesterday is so rare. "It’s the most snow I’ve seen here in my career as a police officer, which spanned most of the 1990s." He added that the city may only receive two to four inches in one snow event per year, and that usually melts by the afternoon.

Conditions on the roads Thursday led to 130 traffic accidents in Ft. Smith, but only a few were serious, according to Barrows. He added that roads packed with snow were also blocked by cars abandoned when motorists decided they couldn’t drive any further. The crowded roads saw more activity when the public schools sent students home at noon.

Mississippi

Governor Musgrove declared a state of emergency early Thursday, after as much as 12 inches of snow fell across parts of Mississippi.

While there was a tremendous amount of snow, roads remained open and electricity remained on, said Mississippi Emergency Management spokesman (MEMA) Clif Lusk. About 300 National Guardsmen were put on active duty in anticipation of deteriorating conditions, but they were put back on standby Friday when the situation proved less serious than anticipated.

MEMA warned that even though roads were open Friday night, falling temperatures could lead to slick conditions overnight. "Our recommendation to the citizens is to exercise extreme caution. If you don't have to go somewhere, the best thing to do is stay at home," said Lusk.

Storm blitz heads for Super Bowl

Georgia, North Carolina prepare for more ice, snow
MSNBC staff and wire reports
Jan. 28 —

After blanketing parts of Texas and much of Arkansas and Oklahoma with snow, a storm moved over Georgia and North Carolina on Friday, bringing with it not just snow but also ice. That's depressing news for fans trying to get to Atlanta for the Super Bowl, as well as folks in North Carolina, which is still digging out from up to 2 feet of snow last Monday.

Hundreds of thousands were urged to stay home and Super Bowl planners worried about disruptions surrounding this Sunday's game in Atlanta.

Forecasters warned that icy sleet could coat roads and power lines from Alabama to the Carolinas by Friday night. The storm was expected to then veer north and dump more snow this weekend over the Northeast, which Friday saw wind chill temperatures well below zero.

Already, National Guard units have been called out in Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama to help stranded motorists. And while parts of the Plains and Southeast needed the moisture, more snow and ice is the last thing North Carolina residents want to see.

Below's a rundown of the storm front by state.

• Georgia: Snow began falling before dawn and the state was under a winter storm watch Friday. Many nervously awaited the arrival of freezing rain — all too familiar after last weekend's storm left 500,000 customers without electricity and caused an estimated $55 million in damage.

Coming out of a supermarket in Tifton, Betty Turner pushed a cart full of ham, potato salad and soft drinks. "I didn't take the millennium seriously, but I'm taking this seriously," she said, ordering extra natural gas for her back yard tank so she'll have gas to cook. She also badgered her son into stocking up on firewood so her three grandchildren will stay warm.

It Atlanta, the Tennessee Titans and St. Louis Rams were given permission to practice indoors for Sunday's Super Bowl game. The stadium has a roof, but new snow and ice will make it hard for the thousands of tourists due to arrive. "We know a couple of inches here can totally shut things down," said Jim Steeg, the National Football League's vice president of special events.

Delta Air Lines said it has cancelled flights to Atlanta through 3 p.m. ET on Friday and additional cancellations are likely. The airline pledged to get fans into the city in time for the game, though "they should expect to encounter significant delays on the way," spokesman John Kennedy said.

Georgia Power said 1,000 workers were arriving from other states to help with the effort. "The first thing we're doing is putting our crews on a 24-hour rest period, so they can get a good night's rest," a spokesman said Thursday.


• Arkansas: By Friday morning, 15 inches of snow had fallen in parts of the state, making it the biggest winter storm since 1988.

NBC's Ron Blome reporting from Little Rock, said it was still snowing Friday, adding that another storm was expected to arrive Friday night.

About 1,000 motorists were stranded in snow along Interstate 30 late Thursday. State police and National Guardsmen were summoned to rescue them.

"It just came on so fast. There was no way to know we were going to be trapped," said Betty Hagan, traveling from Illinois to her home in Dallas. "I spent the first 35 years in Illinois and I've never been trapped like this."

Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee closed most state offices Thursday, sending 50,000 workers home, and said only essential employees had to show up Friday. The snow came down so hard in Hot Springs — 7 inches in four hours — that office workers couldn't see across the street.

• Mississippi: A foot of snow had fallen on the state, where lawmakers hurried home for a long weekend.

"Out this way," said Wayne Nichols of Cleveland, Miss., "we're looking like one of those snow globes that has been turned upside down and shaken."

• Oklahoma: The Capitol in Oklahoma City was closed Thursday for the first time in a decade and the storm left 17 inches of snow in Eufaula, 100 miles farther east.

Just last week, temperatures in the state were 65 degrees and a month ago, they were 72 degrees — 25 degrees above normal.

• Texas: Schools and businesses closed Thursday, and Dallas airport saw flight a third of all flights either canceled or delayed. A repeat of airport delays and cancellations is likely on Friday morning because of ice on runways. Police reported scores of wrecks and fender benders in the Dallas Worth area, without fatalities.

• Alabama: Schools and colleges were shut down Friday, as Gov. Don Siegelman urged residents to stock up on water, non-perishable foods, batteries and flashlights. Grocery store parking lots were packed as many remembered a 1993 storm that left people without power for days.

"I went to three different stores last night looking for bread and they were all out," said Charlotte Holloway, holding two loaves as she waited in line at a store in Pelham. "One lady had eight gallons of milk."

• North Carolina: Icy rain or snow was predicted this weekend after Monday's storm left up to 2 feet of snow. Some 40,000 homes and businesses were still without power Friday. "I'm dreading this weekend," said Randy Deese, a state transportation worker in Asheville.

Ann Long of Troy recalled how the snow first looked beautiful. "But then it started to look a little like a monster," she said. "And I thought it's amazing how fast something that is so pretty can turn into something so ugly."

For Raleigh Mayor Paul Coble, the surprise storm Monday was like a "white hurricane."


The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.