A major winter storm roared into the Northeast today after dumping up to 14 inches of snow on the Deep South, shutting down airports, schools and highways from Mississippi to New England and hobbling the work of the federal government.
Officials up and down the Atlantic coast urged motorists to stay home.
"The weatherman is not kidding," said Paul Lunsford of the South Carolina Office of Emergency Preparedness. "Conditions are bad. If people would pay attention to the weather service and not travel unless it's absolutely necessary, it'd help."
"It's just like a war zone out there," said Art Strong of the National Weather Service in Charleston, W.Va.
Accidents in South
The storm, born in the Gulf of Mexico and packed with moisture, began blanketing Dixie with snow Wednesday night. Scores of accidents were reported, along with one traffic death, as Southerners struggled to cope with unfamiliar snow and ice.
New York's LaGuardia and Kennedy airports closed, and flights were delayed at airports in Newark, N.J., and Philadelphia.
In Atlanta, Hartsfield International Airport, the South's busiest, was closed for four hours until crews managed to clear one runway at 9:30 a.m. Washington National Airport managed to stay open for two hours before closing indefinitely at 10:30 a.m.
"The snow is falling so heavily crews can't keep up with it," said National spokesman Dave Hess. "In addition, visibility was so poor our equipment operators can't see one another."
Snowfall accumulations as of midday included 14 inches in Surry and Yadkin counties, N.C.; 12 inches in Hickory, N.C.; 8 inches in Cordelia, Ga.; 6 inches in Washington, D.C., Greenville, S.C., Lewisburg, W.Va., and Clay County, Ala.; 5 inches in Richmond, Va.; 4 inches in Knoxville, Tenn., and Charlotte, N.C., and 2 to 5 inches in the Atlanta area. An inch fell in Montgomery, Ala., the first snow there in almost two years.
Schools, Legislatures Closed
Schools shut down in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Connecticut, along with the legislatures of South Carolina and Delaware.
In Washington, the Office of Personnel Management first told the area's 300,000 federal employees to report to work but decided later to release them early.
Telephone lines in the district were jammed for a time as workers called home or made other arrangements for the day. The Smithsonian Institution and the National Zoo closed their doors as forecasters predicted up to eight inches of snow would accumulate.
Up to a foot of snow was expected in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and parts of New England as the storm moved through.
Power Knocked Out
Power was knocked out to more than 90,000 people in Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina as snow-laden tree limbs collapsed onto utility lines.
In many states, the only people encouraged to go out were those who could run sanders and salt-spreaders.