DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — A snow and ice storm blasted parts of the Mid-Atlantic and the South early Tuesday, creating treacherous road conditions and leaving hundreds of thousands without power.
Officials — hoping to avoid a repeat of a disastrous February 2014 storm, when rush-hour traffic and a thin coating of ice left people stuck in cars or abandoning vehicles in Atlanta and Raleigh — urged people to stay off the roads in several states, but wrecks were reported along slick streets.
Schools and offices closed for the day, outages hit especially hard in the Carolinas and Georgia, and hundreds of flights were canceled.
In Durham, N.C., the snow on the roads was mostly untouched — indicating that drivers were probably listening to warnings.
Joe Peldunas — a New Jersey native — shrugged about Southerners and snow. “They don’t know how to drive,” he said.
As Peldunas shoveled his driveway, no one else in the quiet Durham neighborhood was out. “In New Jersey, as soon as the snow stops, we get up and start shoveling,” he said.
Central North Carolina expected about a quarter inch of snow and ice. Up to 3 inches of snow and sleet was forecast for the northeastern part of the state.
In Greenville, S.C., a place unaccustomed to nasty winter weather, the roads were coated with a half inch of ice. Despite warnings not to drive, deliveryman Vincent Nash was out trying to work.
“You have to be careful. People don’t know how to drive in this weather,” he said. His advice: “Go slow. Don’t be in a hurry.”
James and Mary Campbell also were among the few out driving, searching for an open spot for breakfast. They weren’t too worried, saying it would warm up soon, but Mary had one concern: that the flowers that were starting to come up in her yard would die. “I can’t wait until spring,” she said.
In Washington, some areas saw 2 to 6 inches of snow, and the storm was the worst of the season, said Andy Woodcock, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
“It certainly pales in comparison to anything happening in Boston, but it’s the most snow that we’ve seen here in one shot,” he said.
The federal government closed its Washington-area offices for nonemergency personnel. The closure — the first of the winter — was expected to keep tens of thousands of commuters off the roads and rails Tuesday morning and afternoon.
Brenda Lane, 55, used a broom to brush off her car. She expected it would take about an hour to free it — she planned to take her time before heading to work at a grocery store in suburban Maryland.
“There’s no sense getting mad at it,” she said. “I deal with what the Lord sends my way.”
The storm had initially moved across Arkansas and Kentucky, dispersing snow, sleet and freezing rain that prompted power outages, fender benders and other woes.
In central Kentucky, home to the state’s signature thoroughbred industry, horses kept warm by galloping through deep snow, pausing occasionally to shake it off from their thick winter coats. Ned Toffey, general manager of Spendthrift Farm in Lexington, said the horses enjoy running in the snow because it gives them a nice cushion as opposed to the packed earth.
But many folks weren’t quite ready for the winter blast.
RL Doss said he used his truck to rescue several people and their cars on the hills surrounding Frankfort. Cars were fishtailing and sliding off the slick roads.
“I look at it this way. Everybody is trying to get out, to get their last bit of food and stuff, getting home from work and people leaving for work and stuff, and it happens,” he said, shivering in tan overalls pulled over a hooded sweat shirt.
Freezing rain fell as far south as Mississippi. In Virginia, more than 500 wrecks were reported, and Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency. More than 125 Virginia National Guardsmen were poised to help stranded motorists and clean up storm debris.
In Arlington, just across the Potomac River from Washington, streets were clear but fairly quiet Tuesday morning. A man who hands out a free newspaper at the Metro gave copies to the few riders.
West Virginia also was hit hard by the snowstorm when a train carrying crude oil derailed about 30 miles from Charleston. At least one tanker went into the Kanawha River and nearby house caught fire. It wasn’t clear whether the winter storm had contributed to the crash.
Outside the South, other states also dealt with recent snowfall. More than 8 inches fell in parts of Indiana. Southern New Jersey and suburban Philadelphia residents also coped with several inches of accumulation.
And from north to south, bitterly cold temperatures piled on as people shoveled snow or dealt with ice. In New Orleans, Mardi Gras revelers on “Fat Tuesday” were forced to button up, with unseasonably low temperatures in the 30s and 40s.
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