Massive storm system brings record snowfall to the Deep South

(Pexels/MGN file)
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ATLANTA (AP) — Snowfall shrouding much of the Deep South began tapering off early Saturday, but freezing temperatures kept roads slick and thousands without electricity throughout the region while planes remained grounded at the world's busiest airport.

Forecasters warned that moisture on the roadways could freeze and cause black ice to form.

The National Weather Service said that while snow flurries would end by midday in areas including metro Atlanta, temperatures at or below freezing could cause transparent layers of thin ice to form on bridges and other elevated roadways.

The frigid temperatures behind a cold front combined with moisture off the Gulf of Mexico to bring unusual wintry weather to parts of the South.

Preliminary reports to the weather service showed up to 10 inches of snowfall in northwest Georgia, with 7 inches of accumulation in parts of metro Atlanta. Ten inches of snow hit Anniston, Alabama, while up to 7 inches fell in Mississippi.

Rare flurries were even reported in New Orleans.

"It's very, very abnormal and rare that we would get totals like that this time of year," said Sid King, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in the Atlanta area. "It's really not even winter yet. I would not be surprised if we broke a lot of records."

But the snow wasn't expected to outlast the weekend. King said warming temperatures and sunny skies should melt most of it in time for shivering Southerners to return to work and school Monday.

Officials at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which holds the world record for annual number of passengers, said delays and cancellations were expected.

The snowstorms knocked out electricity to thousands across the South.

More than 382,000 homes and businesses were without electricity Saturday in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

Southern Pine Electric Co-operative has more than 12,000 customers without power Saturday in south Mississippi.

A freeze warning was in effect Saturday for parts of northern Florida, southeast Alabama and southwest Georgia. The weather service said freezing temperatures can harm vulnerable plants and animals.

Snow had moved farther east by Saturday, dumping up to 14 inches in parts of North Carolina before heading into the Mid-Atlantic.

Virginia State police reported hundreds of crashes blamed on icy weather.

Parts of the Northeast and New England are also expecting a share of the snowfall this weekend.