- Associated Press - Monday, January 10, 2011

ATLANTA | Temperatures plummeted late Monday, turning slushy streets into sheets of ice across Southern states that are more accustomed to sunshine than snow. The wintry blast has grounded flights, cut power to thousands of homes and even forced Auburn University to cancel viewing parties for the national championship bowl game.

Snow ranging from several inches to more than a foot blanketed states from Louisiana to the Carolinas — a region where many cities have only a handful of snow plows, if any. In many areas, the snow began turning to freezing rain, making roads even more treacherous. The same storm system was expected to move into the Washington, D.C., area by late Tuesday morning.

“If you’re off the main roads, it’s a skating rink,” said Tim Loucks, manager of the Pilot Truck Stop in Haughton, La.

The storm shut down most cities and towns, closed many businesses, and canceled most flights at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the world’s busiest. At least nine people were killed in weather-related traffic accidents.

Worried shoppers left grocery store shelves bare, and families without electricity huddled in dark, chilly homes. Predicted overnight lows in the 20s raised the threat of more outages as snow and freezing rain accumulated on tree branches and power lines.

A police officer examines a car after it slid into a power pole Monday during a snowstorm in Charlotte, N.C. Sleet, ice and several inches of snow covered Southern states from Louisiana to the Carolinas. (Associated Press)
A police officer examines a car after it slid into a power ... more >

“The problem here is that they’re not used to it, so the equipment and the sanitation removal and the snow removal is not really geared for this kind of situation,” said Tino Grana, 48, of New York City, who traveled to Atlanta to sell art at a downtown trade show.

Atlanta, which got 4 to 7 inches, has just eight snow plows. The city hired a fleet of 11 privately run trucks to help spread salt and gravel.

The heaviest snow fell in parts of Tennessee that received as much as 13 inches.

The weather began rolling across the South on Sunday, coating bridges and roads with snow, sleet and freezing rain. The governors of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee declared emergencies. Schools and colleges called off classes.

More than 2,000 flights were canceled around the South, affecting passengers as far away as Scandinavia, and Atlanta’s airport was nearly deserted on what would normally be a busy Monday morning.

In Alabama, Auburn University students looked for somewhere other than campus to watch the Tigers play in the championship bowl game Monday after the school canceled all viewing parties. Gov. Bob Riley called off his trip to Glendale, Ariz., to see the game against the University of Oregon in person.

In tiny Oxford, Miss., where the historic town square got 8 inches of snow, city workers used backhoes to clean up because they had no snow plows.

“They aren’t as good as plows, but they do a pretty good job,” Mayor Pat Patterson said.

Drivers struggled to stay on slippery pavement, and roads were littered with abandoned vehicles. Some motorists got out in the middle of the interstate to push their cars up ice-covered ramps.

Icy roads were blamed in separate accidents that killed two people in Louisiana, two in Oklahoma and one each in Kansas and Alabama. Three more drivers were killed in Arkansas when they veered off the pavement.