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Winter storm that shut down the South turns north

Published: Sunday, Aug. 30 2015 5:57 a.m. MDT

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) 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.

Mary Garcia receives food for her family at the Greyhound bus terminal, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011, in Atlanta. They have been stranded since last Sunday. More than 300 passengers who were stranded at an Atlanta bus station by a winter storm 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, Associated Press) Mary Garcia receives food for her family at the Greyhound bus terminal, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011, in Atlanta. They have been stranded since last Sunday. More than 300 passengers who were stranded at an Atlanta bus station by a winter storm 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, Associated Press)

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?"

A pedestrian walks down Spring Street in Atlanta Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011. Atlanta, which has gotten 4 to 7 inches in a snow storm that battered the South, has just eight snow plows.  (Mike Stewart, Associated Press) A pedestrian walks down Spring Street in Atlanta Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011. Atlanta, which has gotten 4 to 7 inches in a snow storm that battered the South, has just eight snow plows. (Mike Stewart, Associated Press)

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."

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.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino late Tuesday declared a snow emergency, which bans parking ban on all major streets and cancels public schools.

By Tuesday evening, widespread flight cancelations moved from the South into the Northeast and Great Lakes ahead of the storm. More than 3,500 flights had been scrubbed for Tuesday and at least 1,000 more were expected to be canceled Wednesday from Atlanta to Chicago to Boston. American expected hundreds of cancellations, but one type of flight was sacrosanct — international ones leaving out of New York's Kennedy Airport.

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. His semi stood in a long line of tractor trailers that couldn't move because of ice.

"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."

But elsewhere, people seemed accepting, and in some cases cheerful, about canceling plans for school, work and errands.

Atlanta city Councilman Kwanza Hall spent much of Monday sledding and shoveling alongside his neighbors. He said many of his constituents didn't mind staying in for part of the workweek.

"We're very fortunate this time because the storm didn't knock most of the power out," Hall said. "So you still have warmth, lights and television. You just can't go anywhere."

Passengers stranded at an Atlanta bus station were helped by good Samaritans, including a woman who made the 15-mile drive from Smyrna, Ga., to drop off sandwiches.

Valencia Dantzler of Chicago had been stuck at the station since Sunday and took matters into her own hands: She called the McDonald's corporate office and arranged for a downtown restaurant to bring food to the passengers.

"He brought like 150 double cheeseburgers and fries and salad. We ended up running out of food," she said.

Entrepreneurs in Atlanta didn't miss an opportunity: Someone set up a website hawking T-shirts and other souvenirs for "Hothlanta," a play on the city nickname "Hotlanta" and the frozen planet Hoth from the Star Wars movie "The Empire Strikes Back." One showed an enemy robot walker and a sign for Waffle House, the iconic Southern diner chain.

The effects of the storm were likely to linger because continued cold temperatures will slow any melting, perhaps until the weekend.

The storm will also take an economic toll. North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue said the state has already spent $26 million of the $30 million it set aside this fiscal year for storm-related cleanup expenses.

"If you can do anything for the state, could you pray that we get warm weather for the rest of the winter?" she said. "These trucks and these workers all come with a cost."

Associated Press writers Dorie Turner, Don Schanche and Errin Haines in Atlanta; Chris Hawley in New York City; Bill Poovey in Chattanooga, Tenn.; and Gary D. Robertson in Raleigh contributed to this report.

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