ATLANTA — Freezing cold spread across the South and all the way to the Gulf Coast early Sunday, a day after the region got an unusual coating of snow.
Thermometers fell to 17 degrees early Sunday at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and Blairsville in northeastern Georgia recorded a low of 9, said Stephen Konarik, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Peachtree City outside Atlanta.
Daytime temperatures Sunday were expected to rise only into the mid-30s.
Despite the chill, fears of slippery roads did not materialize because snowfall stopped before sunset Saturday in most of the Atlanta metro area, and strong wind helped dry pavement, Konarik said.
“Most of the water ... was able to get off the roads, so it wasn’t so much of a problem that we know of,” he said.
Gulf Coast freeze
Sunday morning temperatures fell into the freezing range even on the Gulf Coast, where Mobile, Ala., and Gulfport, Miss., both hit 28 degrees, according to weather service Web sites. By midmorning, thermometers had risen to 36 at Mobile. New Orleans had a low of 32.
New Orleans had put its freeze plan into effect to provide temporary shelter for the homeless for Saturday and Sunday nights.
On Saturday, snow fell as far south as southwestern Mississippi, with totals of as much as 3 inches, although the ground was too warm to allow it to accumulate. It was that area’s first snowfall since 2001, the National Weather Service said.
The last time snow fell at Leander, La., 30 miles west of Alexandria, was three or four years ago, "but right now it's coming down," said resident Zelle Nichols, 78. She said her outdoor thermometer read 32 degrees at 7:35 a.m.
Saturday flight cancellations
All five runways at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport remained open during Saturday’s sleet and snow, but Delta Air Lines Inc. canceled about 280 flights, spokeswoman Betsy Talton said. AirTran Airways canceled about 80 and other flights were delayed by the need to deice wings, spokesman Tad Hutcheson said.
As much as 5 inches of snow fell in Alabama. The state’s last major winter storm dropped 16 inches in March 1993.
Eleven-year-old Khryshanna Taylor saw snow for the first time Saturday in Montgomery and was unimpressed. "I have decided that I don't like snow!" she said as she hurried home after a brief attempt at a snowball fight.
The clash of warm and cold air helped produce two tornadoes along Florida’s west coast late Saturday afternoon, the weather service said. No injuries and little damage were reported.
While the snow and cold were relatively rare occurrences for Southerners, people in northern states like to think they are accustomed to winter weather.
Although Saturday's highs were below zero in most of Minnesota, nearly 100 people ran in the Frozen 5K at Spicer, Minn., and about 75 people clad only in swimsuits dove into northern Minnesota's Lake Bemidji while the air temperature was 15 below zero.
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