ATLANTA (AP) — Winter weather turned travel treacherous across the South, shutting down interstates in Louisiana, causing highway crashes in Kentucky and closing airport runways in Texas as snow turned the red clay white and prompted schools to close across the region.
By Tuesday evening, the wide band of wintry weather stretching from Texas to Massachusetts was steadily dropping snow on metro Atlanta. About 15 miles (25 kilometers) northwest of the city, the snow was forcing cars on Interstate 75 to slow considerably amid scattered fender benders.
Many Georgia school districts already had announced early dismissal times and cancellations.
Ryan Willis, a meteorologist for the National Water Service based in Peachtree City, says the forecast calls for 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5 to 4 centimeters) of snow to fall in metropolitan Atlanta through Wednesday morning, with localized higher amounts.
Governors’ offices in Alabama and Louisiana said state offices would close Wednesday because of dangerous cold that forecasters said would follow the snow. Forecasters said frostbite would be a threat in north Georgia because of below- zero (-18 Celsius) wind chills.
Potentially hazardous wind chills prompted schools to close Tuesday across Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Kansas and Missouri.
In Kentucky, multiple crashes closed a 10-mile (16-kilometer) section of Interstate 24 in the western part of the state and blocked southbound lanes of Interstate 65 in the south, including a five-vehicle pileup involving a Greyhound bus that injured multiple people, authorities said.
In Tennessee, forecasters called for up to 6 inches (15 centimeters) of snow in the central part of the state, including the Nashville area.
Hundreds of flights were canceled at Texas airports, where frigid temperatures left runways dangerously icy. Forecasters warned mariners along the Texas coast to be on guard for gale-force winds.
In Louisiana, state officials said parts of several interstates were closed.
“We’ve got numerous crashes on the interstates and surface roads,” Louisiana State Trooper Glenn Younger said Tuesday morning from Bossier City, Louisiana, just across the Red River from Shreveport.
“You can’t see the black ice; it’s invisible,” said Younger, who had been driving roads since 5 a.m. Tuesday and could feel the back end of his patrol car begin to slide at times.
“You want to just barely touch the brakes in that situation,” he said. “A lot of people get scared and they want to jam on the brakes, and that makes it worse.”
What looked like about 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) of snow covered the hood of Glenn Springfield’s truck when he went outside Tuesday morning in northeast Louisiana, he said. Springfield, a spokesman for the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office, said the worst highway conditions were about 100 miles (160 kilometers) west of him — but the snow was heading east.
“We’re just advising people that if you don’t have to work, stay home,” Springfield said.
Ice had coated roads and bridges in 36 of Mississippi’s 82 counties, mostly in the northern and central parts of the state, the Mississippi Department of Transportation said in a statement Tuesday morning. Some of the heaviest snow in Mississippi was expected in the state’s Delta region, where up to 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) was possible.
In Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey declared a state of emergency meaning schools won’t have to make up lost class days. Numerous businesses and government offices closed because of the threat.
Alabama officials were trying to avoid a repeat of four years ago, when a winter storm blanketed central Alabama and left motorists stranded on roads in metro Birmingham for hours. Teachers and students camped out in schools.
Forecasters aren’t predicting a large amount of snow for Alabama — just 2 inches (5 centimeters) or less with more in spots. But they say temperatures steadily falling into the teens could freeze anything that comes down.
Drivers had a hard time navigating hills around the north Alabama city of Haleyville, where roads quickly turned white Tuesday morning, but there was still plenty of traffic because manufacturing plants that didn’t close in advance began dismissing workers, store clerk Rose Payne said.
“It’s coming down as snow, but with these cars driving over it looks ice on the ground,” said Payne, who planned to walk home from her job at Friendly Shop if roads got too bad. “The driveways of businesses are white.”
Reeves reported from Birmingham, Alabama. Associated Press writers David Warren in Dallas; Rebecca Reynolds Yonker in Louisville, Kentucky; Adrian Sainz in Memphis, Tennessee; and Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas City, Missouri contributed to this report.
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