By Colleen Jenkins
WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina (Reuters) – A rare blast of snow, sleet and ice hit the U.S. South on Tuesday, prompting schools to close, airlines to cancel flights and emergency officials to warn of icy roads.
The southern cold snap is part of an Arctic front that has put much of the Northeast and northern Plains under warnings and advisories for dangerous wind chills. Temperatures in parts of those regions could feel as cold as -30 Fahrenheit on Tuesday, the National Weather Service said.
The winter storm could extend from southern Louisiana and the Gulf Coast into northern Florida and through the Carolinas, the weather service said.
Parts of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina will likely see significant icing, while light to heavy snow is expected in some parts of the southern Mid-Atlantic states.
Forecasters were predicting 1 to 2 inches of snow in parts of middle and north Georgia including the Atlanta area, prompting dozens of school closings.
Ice could also be a problem, said National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Leary in Atlanta.
“It’s certainly a possibility on overpasses,” Leary said.
In South Carolina, lawmakers canceled this week’s session of the state legislature ahead of the expected wintry mix. In Mississippi, emergency management officials told residents to prepare for power outages and hazardous driving conditions.
“This is a very dangerous situation because snow and ice are very rare for extreme southern Mississippi,” Mississippi Emergency Management Agency Director Robert Latham said in a statement. “We need everyone to have an emergency plan together for this.”
Air travel across the region was taking a hit early on Tuesday, with more than 2,800 U.S. flights canceled and hundreds of others delayed, according to the flight tracking Web site FlightAware.com.
Winter weather advisories also went out for a wide swath of eastern and central Texas for Tuesday, with forecasters predicting up to 1 inch of snow near the state’s border with northern Louisiana.
Freezing temperatures and rain snarled the morning commute through large parts of central Texas and Louisiana, where roads and bridges were iced over. Police in Austin, Texas, reported about 100 crashes caused by icy roads but said there had been no fatalities.
In New Orleans, jury selection in the corruption trial of a former mayor was suspended due to the cold weather.
(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Additional reporting by David Beasley in Atlanta; Karen Brooks and Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; and Lisa Bose McDermott in Texarkana; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)