(Adds Washington federal offices closed, updates flights, adds
weather service quote)
By David Beasley
ATLANTA Feb 12 A deadly winter storm gripped
the southeastern United States on Wednesday, crippling travel,
grounding flights, knocking out power to 363,000 customers and
encasing magnolia and palmetto trees in ice.
The weather was blamed for at least 13 deaths in the region,
including three people killed when an ambulance transporting a
patient skidded off an icy road in Carlsbad, Texas.
Winter storm warnings and advisories were in place from
Arkansas east to much of the Atlantic coast, the National
Weather Service said. The storm is expected to sock the
northeastern United States in the next two days with up to 15
inches (38 cm) of snow.
"We definitely consider this to be a high-impact event, and
we're definitely telling everyone to stay off the roads and stay
inside as much as possible," said Carl Barnes, a weather service
forecaster in Sterling, Virginia.
Snow and freezing rain that pummeled South Carolina and
North Carolina created a dangerous commute for drivers in a
hurry to get home as the snowfall got heavier and the ice
A possibly historic accumulation of ice as well as heavy
snow was expected to add up to nearly 8 inches (20 cm) of frozen
precipitation for Charlotte, North Carolina, and 9 inches (23
cm) were forecast for Spartanburg, South Carolina,
More than an inch (2.5 cm) of ice was possible from central
Georgia into South Carolina by Thursday morning, according to
Traffic on interstate highways ground to a halt, and at
least one snow plow went off a North Carolina highway into a
Todd Pekks, a chef at Duke University, was just half a mile
(800 meters) into his drive home to Raleigh when he began to
skid so badly he gave up, his wife Sherri Pekks said.
He made his way back to work on foot, and returned to the
kitchen, she said.
"He's definitely gone for the night. I wonder if he'll be
able to make it back tomorrow," Pekks said.
Fatal road accidents were reported in Mississippi and South
Carolina. In Georgia, a man died of exposure near his home in
Butts County, south of Atlanta, and North Carolina Governor Pat
McCrory told CNN two people had died in weather-related
STATES OF EMERGENCY
Governors declared states of emergencies from Louisiana to
New Jersey, and hundreds of schools, colleges and offices
throughout the region shut down. The basketball game between
archrivals Duke University and the University of North Carolina
was called off.
About 6,700 U.S. flights were canceled or delayed on
Wednesday, and another 3,700 were scrubbed for Thursday,
according to flight-tracking website FlightAware.com. About half
of the Thursday flights to and from Washington and New York were
The U.S. Department of Energy reported that 363,000 power
customers were without electricity as of mid-afternoon. More
than a third of them were in Georgia, where some residents may
have to wait up to a week for power to be restored, said Georgia
Power spokeswoman Amy Fink.
About 5,000 people were without power in Birmingham,
Alabama, with more than 6 inches (15 cm) of snow expected. Roads
were closed across the northern part of the state, authorities
In the path of the storm, the White House delayed a
Thursday event to mark the launch of My Brother's Keeper, a
campaign to help young black men. Federal offices in Washington
Washington city officials authorized a $15 snow surcharge
for taxi rides to encourage cabbies to stay on the road. In New
York, the MTA Metro-North train system was to operate on a
reduced schedule on Thursday.
Most motorists in Georgia, where thousands were stranded in
their vehicles during the last weather front, stayed off the
roads after a state of emergency was declared, Governor Nathan
Vehicles that did venture out were soon coated with ice,
their radio antennas looking like ice skewers, television images
Shelters were opened in Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina
to help those stranded by the storm.
(Additional reporting by Harriet McLeod, Jon Herskovitz, Karen
Jacobs, Scott DiSavino, Dave Warner, Verna Gates and Marti
Maguire.; Writing by Colleen Jenkins, Ian Simpson and Barbara
Goldberg; Editing by Bernadette Baum, Gunna Dickson and Ken