Police and the National Guard helped people reunite with their abandoned cars Thursday as the logjam on Atlanta highways eased and the roads thawed after a winter storm hit the Deep South.
The rare Dixie winter storm stretched from Brownsville, Texas, through New Orleans to the Florida Panhandle and north to the Carolinas. It brought 2 to 3 inches on snow and sheets of ice to Southern communities not equipped to deal with such conditions.
At the peak of the storm, thousands of cars littered the interstates in Georgia and in Alabama. Some people ran out of gas, some were involved in accidents and others simply left their car on the side of the road so they could walk home or to someplace warm. Across much of the South, the sun was out, temperatures were rising and snow was beginning to melt.
About 1,6000 students in Alabama who spent two nights at schools were finally home, and all of the state’s highways were reopened. Still, officials warned drivers to be extremely cautious and to look out for icy patches. Schools and government offices were still closed in several states.
In all, six Southern states declared emergencies, and at least 12 deaths—mostly from traffic accidents on slippery roads—were blamed on the storm.
Still, there is much cleanup to do. The Georgia State Patrol said more than 2,000 cars were abandoned along the freeways.
North Carolina is still facing icy conditions, with dangerous roads in much of the state as bone-chilling temperatures overnight refroze any snow that had melted.
In Mississippi, the state Emergency Management Agency reported one death in a storm-related traffic accident in Smith County.
More than 800 flights were canceled as of early Thursday, including more than 200 at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world’s busiest, flight-tracking website FlightAware.com said. More than 1,600 flights were expected to be delayed, the website said.
Schools and government offices were closed in most states Thursday, and officials urged businesses to let workers stay home.
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