- The Washington Times - Friday, February 12, 2010

PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) — It took back-to-back blizzards to paralyze the nation’s capital, but in the Deep South it only takes a couple inches of snow.

Flakes were falling — or threatened — Friday from Texas to the Florida Panhandle and then up along the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina, bringing a rare white landscape to spots that haven’t seen snow in a decade or longer. The storm was crawling east out of Texas, where it left the Dallas area with more than a foot of snow, nearly 200 traffic accidents, thousands without power and hundreds of canceled flights.

Far less snow was falling in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. But it was still have a crippling effect. Snow, ice and sleet closed parts of Interstate 49 in central Louisiana.

Just the anticipation of an inch of snow was enough to close schools in the Florida Panhandle, while classes also were canceled in parts of Alabama.

In Pensacola, only heavy rain was falling early Friday as the area braced for possible snow.

Even a Starbucks in nearby Gulf Breeze, Fla., delayed opening. Jim Pavelic, a retiree from Chicago who relocated to Florida, made his way to the door of the store around 6:20 a.m. and read the sign noting the store would open late “due to the unprecedented weather patterns.”

Pavelic couldn’t believe it.

“You cannot even get a cup of coffee and it’s raining,” he said, laughing. “At least I don’t need a snow shovel.”

Several oceanside communities in South Carolina including Charleston — which hasn’t seen recorded snowfall since January 2000 — could see between 2 and 4 inches of snow, said Jonathan Lamb, a National Weather Service meteorologist based in Charleston.

And as much as 3 inches could hit Savannah, Ga., where snow was last traced in February 1996 — “and that was only 0.2 inches,” Lamb said. It’s been two decades since Georgia’s oldest city had any notable accumulation, with 3.6 inches falling in December 1989. Normally, temperatures in February don’t dip below 41 degrees.

“There’s no doubt this is a significant event for us,” Lamb said.

Highway patrol troopers in Texas, Alabama and several other states warned of treacherous morning commutes. Dallas police responded to 41 major traffic accidents and 132 minor ones Thursday, though no serious injuries were reported. The roof of a tire warehouse in west Dallas collapsed under the heavy snow overnight, leaving a gaping hole in the roof but causing no injuries.

American Airlines canceled about 240 flights Friday, mainly at its hub at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, airline spokesman Steve Schlachter said.

The snowfall made this the snowiest winter in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in 32 seasons.

In Atlanta, Delta Air Lines canceled 400 flights for Friday in anticipation of as much as 2 inches of snow expected in the region. AirTran also thinned its schedule, announcing Thursday plans to cut 32 of its flights on Friday because of the threat of snow. That included flights in and out of Atlanta.

The snow hitting the Deep South comes just a week after the first of back-to-back blizzards hit Washington, D.C. — which ended up with about 28 inches of snow — and along the Eastern Seaboard. Residents are still digging out from those storms, which forced the federal government to shut down for about a week.

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