Winter storm that shut down the South turns north

By Tom Breen

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 11 2011 1:11 p.m. MST

Danny Hammond, with the South Carolina Budget and Control Board's General Services, tries to clear ice outside an entrance to the Statehouse, Tuesday, January 11, 2011 in Columbia, S.C. The winter storm that blanketed South Carolina with snow and ice is being blamed for at least one death and thousands of traffic accidents as freezing temperatures Tuesday kept many of the state's roads a slippery mess.

The State, Gerry Melendez, Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. — The snow-and-ice storm that has shut down much of the South slowly rolled toward the Northeast on Tuesday, revealing a regional culture clash along the way.

Southerners seemed resigned to waiting out such winter headaches as slick roads and paralyzed airports. But people from Ohio to New York, who face up to a foot of snow in their third blast of winter in as many weeks, are already putting pressure on state and local governments to spare them from travel tangles and snow-choked roads.

Across the South, schools and government offices were closed for a second day, and travelers remained stranded at airports and bus stations. Road crews ill-equipped for the winter blast struggled to keep streets clear. Motorists sat for hours on slippery highways.

Despite the inconvenience, Southerners confronted the storm's aftermath with patience — and a certain amount of wonder.

Lynn Marentette, a school psychologist who lives south of Charlotte, stayed home after classes were canceled. She's been too busy catching up with friends on Facebook and watching children sled down the hill near her home to touch the stack of paperwork on her desk.

"It is a beautiful, beautiful day out there," she said. "I have some paperwork and some things I've really put off doing, but how often do you have a chance to enjoy the snow?"

Nobody seemed to be complaining much at Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga, either.

"It's a once-in-a-decade event. There is no reason to prepare for it. It is not a wise spending of funds," said Brent Taylor, an executive for the United Way who was pulling a sled carrying his 5-year-old daughters, Elie and Grace, near Chattanooga.

Taylor said he could not get the family's cars out of the driveway, but they were enjoying the time together.

In Chattanooga, the ice and up to 10 inches of snow was the biggest accumulation in almost two decades.

The city is better equipped than many in the South, where many communities have few snow plows, if any. Hamilton County has 11 salt or brine trucks with blades and three road graders.

"The last time we had this much snow was 1993," said Bill Tittle, the county's emergency management chief. "You can't have that much equipment just sitting around for 18 years."

The South's experience offered a preview of what's in store for states from Ohio to New England, a region already tired of winter after digging out from two storms in recent weeks.

Those wintery blasts included a Christmas weekend blizzard that provoked anger in New York City and New Jersey over the slow cleanup.

"It's not that the city can't handle it, it's the leadership," said John Man, 32, a pizza cook in Brooklyn who said that after the Dec. 26 blizzard it took him 45 minutes to walk a little over a mile to his job.

"This time we're only getting a foot, and hopefully they've learned from last time," he said.

New York City and its suburbs could get 8 to 14 inches of snow, with reduced visibility and wind gusts up to 35 mph, forecasters said. Long Island could get as much as 15 inches. In New England, forecasters were predicting up to a foot across most of Connecticut and the Boston area.

In Atlanta, trucker Vernon Cook, 67, of Myrtle Beach, S.C., had been sitting idle on an interstate ramp in Atlanta for almost 24 hours in a long line of tractor trailers that couldn't move because of ice on the road.

"I've been a trucker for 46 years and have seen nothing like this," said Cook, who was hauling a load of synthetic rubber from Beaumont, Texas, to Fayetteville, N.C. "I've always been stuck for a little short time, even in Chicago. Georgia DOT is not working, not on this road."

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