Ice Turns Travel In South Treacherous; 5 Die In Crashes

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ATLANTA (UPI) — Hundreds of motorists in Alabama and Georgia spent the night in their vehicles following a snow shower blamed for five deaths in Alabama, officials said.

Freezing rain made driving perilous across Alabama where officials said at least five people died in weather-related traffic accidents, CNN reported.

Alabama Governor Robert J. Bentley declared a state of emergency and deployed 350 National Guard troops. States of emergency also were declared in Louisiana, North Carolina and South Carolina.

“This is a very dangerous situation,” Bentley said. “People need to stay at home. They need to stay there until conditions improve.”

Law enforcement officials in both States reported motorists were stranded as long as 12 hours because ice and snow turned roadways into parking lots, CNN said.

Rebekah Cole left work in Atlanta Tuesday afternoon and was still trying to go home at 1 a.m. EST Wednesday. As she prepared to spend the night in her car, she told CNN she hoped it wouldn’t run out of fuel.

“If I get gasoline, I will turn the heater on, keep the windows cracked a little bit,” she said.

As much as 10 inches of snow fell in parts of Virginia Tuesday and Tuesday night, AccuWeather.com said, including as much as 8 inches in Virginia Beach.

The wintry weather moved eastward across Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and the mid-Atlantic coast Tuesday night, creating hazardous travel conditions along the Interstate-10 and I-95 corridors.

Travelers stranded by the storm sought out strangers’ homes, schools, even the big-box hardware chain Home Depot, which opened 26 stores so travelers could escape the elements in Alabama and Georgia, CNN said.

At least seven Atlanta Public School students were stranded just after midnight, spokeswoman Kimberly Willis Green said.

School systems across the south canceled classes Tuesday and Wednesday.

The severe weather forced 4,500 students to spend the night in school buildings in Hoover, Ala., and 800 students were stuck in schools in Birmingham, officials said.

“Staff is staying with them, feeding them,” Birmingham City Schools Superintendent Craig Witherspoon said. “High schools are showing movies.”

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport canceled nearly 500 flights early Wednesday. Thousands of flights were canceled at airports across the South Tuesday, including the Atlanta airport and George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.

Alexandria, La., Tuesday broke a 110-year-old record with 1.2 inches of snow for the date. The previous record was 1 inch, set in 1904, the National Weather Service at Lake Charles said.

Tens of thousands of power customers were without power in several states from Florida through Virginia as of Tuesday evening, utility officials said.

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