ATLANTA – A blast of winter weather rolled across the South on Sunday, coating bridges and roads with snow, sleet and freezing rain and causing thousands of flight cancellations.
The governors of Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee declared emergencies for their states. By late Sunday, snow and ice had covered the ground in Atlanta and Birmingham, Ala., with 2 to 3 inches reported west and northwest of Atlanta.
“We don’t have weather events like this,” Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said in an on-air interview with CNN. “I think the amount of snow we’re getting is probably a 10-year event for the city of Atlanta.”
Georgia was expecting up to 6 inches of snow in the northern mountains from the powerful storm that also dumped snow and ice in Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas. Alabama Gov. Bob Riley said workers had readied snow and salt trucks to help clear icy roads, and he asked all residents to stay home Sunday night and today.
The National Weather Service posted winter storm warnings from east Texas to the Carolinas.
Cars were having trouble on the slippery streets and highways all over the South, with numerous slide-offs, though there were no immediate reports of serious accidents.
Forecasters expected the most extreme conditions in Mississippi and northern Louisiana overnight, with the possibility of heavy ice accumulation in places, including in the Atlanta metro area, where snow was coating the ground.
Thousands of flights have been canceled at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Delta Air Lines canceled 330 flights starting about 8 p.m. Sunday and another 1,400 flights today. AirTran Airways canceled 14 flights for Sunday and another 270 for today, spokesman Christopher White said. Reed said officials did not want people to be stranded at the airport or on planes.
Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport spokesman David Magana said 200 flights, or about a quarter of the schedule, were canceled in anticipation of the weather.
Numerous schools and colleges called off classes today in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.