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Snow and sleet hobble unprepared Southeast

Life comes to a halt in a region that lacks equipment to cope with such a rare winter storm.

January 11, 2011|By Richard Fausset, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Atlanta — A massive snow and sleet storm that descended on the Southeast brought much of commercial and civic life to an icy halt Monday, with forecasters and government officials warning that freezing temperatures may hobble the region until the weekend.

The storm, a low-pressure system that brought light rain to Southern California last week, swept across southern Texas and eventually brought up to a foot of snow to parts of Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and the Carolinas, said Cory Mottice, a meteorologist with AccuWeather.com.

The snow and freezing rain are moving out of the region, Mottice said, but an area of pressure from Canada is moving in, which will guarantee freezing temperatures in some parts of the South until Saturday. That means snow and ice will remain on the ground in areas that aren't well equipped to deal with such conditions.

"They're not prepared for this kind of weather," Mottice said. "It could be a mess for quite a few days out there."

AccuWeather reported that a number of state highways and interstate ramps were closed as of Monday afternoon.

In Lauderdale County, Ala., in the northwest corner of the state near the Tennessee line, crews were using road graders and front-end loaders to push away 6 to 10 inches of snow.

Tim Greer, deputy director of the local emergency management agency, said such severe winter weather didn't happen enough for local government to invest in dedicated snowplows. "So you deal with what you have and get creative," he said.

In northern Alabama and elsewhere, schools and other institutions planned to be closed through Tuesday and perhaps beyond.

In Atlanta, an estimated 4 inches of snow made for a quiet day at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, normally the world's busiest. Spokesman John Kennedy said airlines had begun canceling flights Friday and Saturday in advance of the storm.

Elsewhere in Atlanta, the inauguration of Georgia's 82nd governor, Republican Nathan Deal, was supposed to take place outside the Capitol on Monday but was moved indoors.

Deal urged supporters to stay off the roads and watch the ceremony on TV. All nonessential inaugural activities were canceled, including a prayer breakfast and a celebration at Philips Arena.

On Monday morning, about 4,500 customers of regional utility Georgia Power were reported to be without power. The company planned to import 1,800 out-of-state line and tree-removal workers from as far away as Wisconsin to help its crew of 2,500 workers.

richard.fausset@latimes.com

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