Winter storm that shut down the South turns north

By Tom Breen

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 12 2011 12:05 a.m. MST

Mike Thompson looses his balance on the ice while checking on the 33 cattle he was transporting before he got stranded for over 24 hours on Interstate 285 with hundreds others from a winter storm that turned the road into a sheet of ice Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011, in Atlanta.

David Goldman, 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 winter headaches such 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, were already putting pressure on state and local governments to spare them from travel tangles and snow-choked roads.

Across the South, communities remained encrusted in ice and snow for a second straight day. Road crews fared little better than in the storm's opening hours, owing mostly to their lack of winter equipment. Frustrated motorists sat idle on slippery pavement or moved at a creep. Millions of people just stayed home.

In Atlanta, which had only 10 pieces of snow equipment when the storm hit, officials planned to bring in nearly 50 more pieces — the most resources marshaled for a storm in a decade. Mayor Kasim Reed said backup supplies of salt and sand were on the way, too.

Mail delivery was restricted to just a few places because postal employees could not get to work. Many schools and other institutions planned to stay closed Wednesday out of caution. The storm has been blamed for 11 deaths and many more injuries.

Despite the inconvenience, Southerners confronted the 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 spent the day catching up with friends on Facebook and watching children sled down a nearby hill — and ignored 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, Elise and Grace.

In Columbia, S.C., Will Nelson gingerly made his way down an icy sidewalk Tuesday, trying to get some lunch from a nearby Chick-fil-A. The 72-year-old retired lawyer said he was impressed with the condition of the roads considering what little snow-removal equipment most Southern cities and states own.

"We're from hardy stock. A little bit of this isn't going to hurt us," Nelson said. "Plus, it's the sunny South. Most of the time it snows one day and it is gone the next."

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 — where the first flakes started falling late Tuesday and reached 4.5 inches in Central Park early Wednesday — and New Jersey over the slow cleanup.

Andre Borshch, owner of a chimney maintenance company in New York, worried that the city could come to a halt again.

"I'm not sure anybody's going to make the right decisions," he said. "Alaska and Canada spend six months like this, and they have no problems. But here in New York, the city doesn't know what to do with snow. It's like they've forgotten how to do it."

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