Image: Car crashed into light pole
Chuck Burton  /  AP
This car in Charlotte, N.C., was among the hundreds that slid off icy roads across the South on Monday.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 1/10/2011 1:58:52 PM ET 2011-01-10T18:58:52

Much of the South was expecting freezing rain overnight from a storm that caused at least 8 traffic deaths and forced the world's busiest airport to come to a near standstill.

Snow ranging from several inches to more than a foot blanketed states from Louisiana to the Carolinas — a region where many cities have only a handful of snow plows, if any.

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Atlanta, which got 4 to 7 inches, has just eight snow plows. The city hired a fleet of 11 privately run trucks to help spread salt and gravel.

The long halls at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport were nearly deserted after Delta canceled 1,450 flights Monday. On Sunday it had cut about 500 flights there.

AirTran Airways canceled all of the 330 flights it had scheduled into or out of Atlanta on Monday.

And more misery was on the way: The snow began turning to freezing rain in numerous areas, threatening to make untreated roads even more treacherous.

"If you're off the main roads, it's a skating rink," said Tim Loucks, manager of the Pilot Truck Stop in Haughton, La.

Michigan native Phil Cooper, who lives in Marietta, a northern suburb of Atlanta, said he drove 20 miles Monday on highways he said were barely plowed to get to work in Atlanta's Buckead neighborhood.

"Pretty normal for Michigan, but here in Atlanta, you take 16 lanes of highway and it turns into two," Cooper said.

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Worried shoppers left grocery store shelves bare, and families without electricity huddled in dark, chilly homes. Predicted overnight lows in the 20s raised the threat of more outages caused by snow and freezing rain accumulating on tree branches and power lines.

The heaviest snow fell in parts of Tennessee that received as much as 13 inches.

The weather began rolling across the South on Sunday, coating bridges and roads with snow, sleet and freezing rain. The governors of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee declared emergencies. Schools and colleges called off classes.

For those whose flights made it to Atlanta, the sight of snow-covered runways was disorienting.

Larry and Judy Keefauver, of Buffalo, N.Y., thought their flight from Sacramento had landed somewhere else when they looked out the window.

"I have been flying (through Atlanta) since the early '70s, and I've never landed on snow here ever," said Larry Keefauver, 62.

In Georgia, the storm forced inauguration ceremonies for newly elected Gov. Nathan deal to be moved from the state Capitol steps inside. The inaugural gala was scrapped to keep supporters off the roads. Arkansas officials planned to move their inauguration indoors Tuesday.

And in Alabama, Auburn University students looked for somewhere other than campus to watch the Tigers play in the championship bowl game Monday after the school canceled all viewing parties. Gov. Bob Riley called off his trip to Glendale, Ariz., to see the game in person.

Slideshow: Snow blankets East coast (on this page)

In tiny Oxford, Miss., where the historic town square got 8 inches of snow, city workers used backhoes to clean up because they had no snow plows.

"They aren't as good as plows, but they do a pretty good job," Mayor Pat Patterson said.

Drivers struggled to stay on slippery pavement, and roads were littered with abandoned vehicles. Some motorists got out in the middle of the interstate to push their cars up ice-covered ramps.

"Towns down here just don't have the equipment to deal with this much snow," said Joel Weems, a worker at the University of Mississippi.

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Icy roads were blamed in accidents that killed two people Sunday in Louisiana. Two others died in Oklahoma: a woman whose car went off an icy road and into a pond and a man whose pickup slid off an interstate and hit a tree. In Kansas, a woman went out of control on a slick road and struck a sport utility vehicle.

Three more drivers were killed in Arkansas when they veered off the pavement.

A number of motorists were stranded overnight along Interstate 30 from Little Rock into southwestern Arkansas after jackknifed trailers blocked the highway for hours at a time.

"Once one accident was cleared, the traffic would move, and then another truck or two would jackknife," state police spokesman Bill Sadler said.

In Nashville, Tenn., Jay Rebisz described the roads as terrible, saying he'd seen many cars abandoned where they had spun out.

"With the economy being what it is, people are trying to make it to work no matter what," said Rebisz. He and a friend operate a private snowplow and had been busy all day clearing out apartment complexes, parking lots and shopping centers.

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Conditions were unlikely to improve anytime soon. Temperatures should stay below freezing for days, and more snow is predicted. That means treacherous travel conditions could persist until Wednesday or beyond.

For many in Alabama, the most acute fear was of power outages that could prevent a football-obsessed state watching Monday night's BCS Bowl game between the Auburn Tigers and the Oregon Ducks.

Local sports websites contained information on how to rig up a battery-operated TV set just in case.

The storm system was expected to spread north to Ohio and could hit the snow-weary Northeast by Tuesday night. A Christmas blizzard dumped more than 2 feet of snow on New York City and other parts of the region, crippling holiday travel and nearly shutting down major cities.

The Associated Press, Reuters and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.

Map: Cold blast

Video: Southern storm makes for treacherous travel

  1. Closed captioning of: Southern storm makes for treacherous travel

    >>> this brutal wenter is hitting home again. this time in the south where a powerful weather system is bringing snow, ice and sleet. a state of emergency has been declared in half a dozen states. travel is treacherous to say the least. schools have been closed, a ton of flights have been canceled. nbc's ron mott is with us tonight from atlanta with the latest from there. ron , good evening.

    >> reporter: brian, good eving to you. on a good day, this could be a very tough city to get around. with all this nasty weather that's moved in, today was clearly not a good day.

    >> his engine began smoking.

    >> reporter: on atlanta tv, fire on ice. spinning tires erupting into flames.

    >> started overheating and that's when you told me i was on fire.

    >> reporter: across the south, a major winter storm dumped as much as nine inches of snow and slush in places.

    >> i spun sideways over to where i'm at right here.

    >> reporter: work crews putting in overtime, shovels the same. for those traveling by air, grounded and frustrated, with more than 2,000 flights canceled.

    >> we had to scream and holler to get water and ice.

    >> reporter: on the roads, traffic slid to a stand still . at least three people killed in accidents.

    >> where's the salt? i should have brought ice skates . i'm just upset.

    >> reporter: in little rock , a 14-mile backup turned interstate 30 into a truck stop. but of course, for those in the mood to play, today indeed was a good day. now the system he woulds towards the northeast, bracing for yet another winter wallop.

    >> this system is going to meet up with another system in the midwest, and cities from new york to boston on the interstate 95 corridor between now and wednesday could see a foot of snow or more.

    >> reporter: parts of the region are expecting ice now to form on top of this snow, so the tuesday commute could be just as dicey as the one we saw today if not worse.

    >> ron mott in atlanta tonight. we'll keep an eye on the storm.

Photos: Snow blankets the Northeast after hitting the South

loading photos...
  1. A bundled up Terry Uellendahl clears snow from his cars in Albertson, N.Y., Wednesday, Jan. 12, after an overnight snowfall covered areas throughout Long Island, N.Y. (Kathy Kmonicek / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A young boy makes his way across the frozen pond in the Boston Public Gardens in Boston, Mass. on Wednesday. A snow storm passed along the east coast of the United States leaving over 15 inches in some areas, delaying travel and canceling school. (Cj Gunther / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Workers shovel snow from walkways near the Statehouse in Trenton, N.J. on Wednesday. A winter storm that shut down much of the South churned up the coast Wednesday, dumping wet, heavy snow across the Northeast. (Mel Evans / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. A Secret Service Police Officer holds his hat as the Marine One helicopter kicks up snow on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Jan. 12. President Obama is traveling to Tucson, Ariz. Wednesday for a memorial service for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others who were shot in a rampage that left six people dead. (Charles Dharapak / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A loader clears snow at New York's LaGuardia Airport on Jan. 12. New York's John F. Kennedy airport, which had 6 inches of snow, had 300 flights canceled, and LaGuardia airport saw another 650 flights canceled, officials said. (Jessica Rinaldi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. People clean snow from their cars in Silver Spring, Md, on Wednesday. (Jewel Samad / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. A man attempts to start a snow blower during a storm in Windsor, Conn. on Wednesday. (Jessica Hill / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Members of the Federyuk family shovel snow out of their driveway during a major snow storm, Jan. 12, in Greenfield, Mass. (Matthew Cavanaugh / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Some flights out of Logan International Airport in Boston are cancelled on Wednesday during a winter nor'easter storm. (Brian Snyder / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A man leaps past a snow covered bicycle while crossing a street in the Downtown Crossing in Boston on Wednesday. The Boston area is expected to receive well over a foot of snow during a day long winter storm. (Charles Krupa / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A Long Island Railroad train ticket agent checks for passengers at Manhasset in N.Y. on Jan. 12. (Shannon Stapleton / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. A resident clears the end of his driveway with a snowblower along Route 1A in Walpole, Mass., on Wednesday, Jan.12. (Matt Campbell / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A pedestrian walks along a snow covered street in Albany, N.Y., on Wednesday, Jan. 12. Plows and salt spreaders hit the streets up and down the East Coast during Wednesday morning's commute as a storm that shut down much of the South churned northward and dumped several inches of wet, heavy snow. (Mike Groll / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Snow plows work to clear Route 140 as heavy snow continues to fall in Franklin, Mass., on Wednesday. A foot of snow fell during the night in the Boston area and the Northeast. (Matt Campbell / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Gloria Maroti Frazee cross country skis through fresh snow in Central Park in New York on Wednesday, Jan. 12. "I usually bicycle in the park but it's not a great day for bicycling, so skiing it is, Maroti-Frazee said. A snowstorm that caused mayhem in the South hit the Northeast overnight. (Jonathan D. Woods / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A plow clears snow near the entrance to Prospect Park in the borough of Brooklyn in New York on Wednesday, Jan. 12. (Peter Morgan / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. A man slips while crossing the street on West 72nd Street on Wednesday, Jan. 12, in New York City. The second major snowstorm of the season to hit New York City began Tuesday in the last hours of the evening. (Andrew Burton / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. A lone pedestrian walks in the street to avoid accumulated snowfall on the sidewalks in the Harlem neighborhood of New York on Wednesday, Jan. 12. (Jonathan D. Woods / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. A man wth a bike makes his way through falling snow on Tuesday, Jan. 11, in Philadelphia. (Matt Slocum / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Truckers Bill Dougherty, left, Chis Vlad, center, and Jim Plewinski walk on Interstate 285 as their trucks sit stranded for over 24 hours from a winter storm that turned the road into a sheet of ice on Tuesday, January 11 in Atlanta. (David Goldman / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Dee Johnson speaks on a cell phone at the Greyhound bus terminal on Tuesday in Atlanta. More than 300 passengers who were stranded nby a winter storm at an Atlanta bus station were given sandwiches, blankets and bottled water from a nearby jail. Several other charities and local restaurants have also brought food. Some travelers tried to get some sleep in chairs or on the floor. (Mike Stewart / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Dewey Greer walks with his Siberian Husky, Harley, during an early morning snowfall Tuesday along the city park in Ashland, Kentucky. (John Flavell / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Ben Dodson, left, Lucas Wheeler, center, and Garry Nelson, right, make a snowman in front of the Parthenon on Monday in Nashville, Tenn. Parts of Tennessee received 13 inches of snow from the winter storm. The Parthenon is a full-scale replica of the original Greek structure. (Mark Humphrey / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. John Cox pulls Parker Cox, left, and Chew Mobley through the snow a four-wheeler in Ed Worrell Memorial Park in Texarkana, Ark., on Monday. (Christena Dowsett / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Pedestrians cross over an icy Peachtree Street after snow carpeted Atlanta, Ga., January 10. Snow and ice covered much of the Deep South on Monday, leaving one person dead in Alabama, cutting off power to around 4,000 people in Georgia and closing countless roads, authorities said. (Tami Chappell / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Traffic crawls toward Charlotte, N.C. early Monday on snow covered roads. Sleet, ice and several inches of snow blanketed states from Louisiana to the Carolinas causing at least three deaths and leaving thousands without power. (Davie Hinshaw / Charlotte Observer via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Snow falls against the backdrop of the Georgia State Capitol on Sunday, Jan. 9, in Atlanta. (David Goldman / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Davis McCool tries to catch snowflakes on his tongue while playing in the snowfall in Oxford, Miss., on Jan. 9. The snowfall in the Oxford area has caused the closing of area schools on Monday, including the University of Mississippi. (Bruce Newman / Oxford Eagle) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Cars slip and slide while trying to climb a snow-covered hill on Metropolitan Parkway in Southwest Atlanta on Jan. 9. (Ben Gray / Atlanta Journal & Constitution) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Camille Foster sleds down a small hill in her front yard in the Highland neighborhood of Shreveport, La., after a snowfall on Jan. 9. (Henrietta Wildsmith / The Shreveport Times) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Taylor Parks builds a snowman in Texarkana, Texas, Jan. 9. (Christena Dowsett / Texarkana Gazette) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Colored lights illuminate icicles that hang off the awning of a business on South Washington Street in El Dorado, Ark., on Jan. 9. A winter storm brought a wintery mix of sleet and snow to the area. (Michael Orrell / The El Dorado News-Times) Back to slideshow navigation
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