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Ice storm causes another traffic jam in the South

  • Traffic along Independence Boulevard near Hawthorne Lane crawls along the slick roadway as a winter storm hits   Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/The Charlotte Observer, Davie Hinshaw) MAGS OUT; TV OUT; NEWSPAPER INTERNET ONLY

    Traffic along Independence Boulevard near Hawthorne Lane crawls along the slick roadway as a winter storm hits Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/The Charlotte Observer, Davie Hinshaw) MAGS OUT; TV OUT; NEWSPAPER INTERNET ONLY

  • Lamarr Lewis scrapes ice from his car window during a winter storm on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Doraville, Ga. (AP Photo/John Amis)

    Lamarr Lewis scrapes ice from his car window during a winter storm on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Doraville, Ga. (AP Photo/John Amis)

  • Jacqueline Helton is taken to safety by roadside assistance personnel after her car slid down an embankment on All-American Highway during a winter storm Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Fayetteville, N.C. Helton was stuck in the embankment for about two hours. (AP Photo/The Fayetteville Observer, Jill Knight) MANDATORY CREDIT, MAGS OUT. NO SALES

    Jacqueline Helton is taken to safety by roadside assistance personnel after her car slid down an embankment on All-American Highway during a winter storm Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Fayetteville, N.C. Helton was stuck in the embankment for about two hours. (AP Photo/The Fayetteville Observer, Jill Knight) MANDATORY CREDIT, MAGS OUT. NO SALES

  • A Georgia Department of Transportation sign warns drivers of winter weather as they travel a bleak section of Highway 141 on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Norcross, Ga. The scene is the opposite of what drivers experienced two weeks ago when every major artery of metropolitan Atlanta was clogged during the last winter storm. (AP Photo/John Amis)

    A Georgia Department of Transportation sign warns drivers of winter weather as they travel a bleak section of Highway 141 on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Norcross, Ga. The scene is the opposite of what drivers experienced two weeks ago when every major artery of metropolitan Atlanta was clogged during the last winter storm. (AP Photo/John Amis)

  • Traffic along Independence Boulevard near Hawthorne Lane crawls along the slick roadway as a winter storm hits   Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/The Charlotte Observer, Davie Hinshaw) MAGS OUT; TV OUT; NEWSPAPER INTERNET ONLY

    Traffic along Independence Boulevard near Hawthorne Lane crawls along the slick roadway as a winter storm hits Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/The Charlotte Observer, Davie Hinshaw) MAGS OUT; TV OUT; NEWSPAPER INTERNET ONLY

  • Ice hangs from foliage on a residential street on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Atlanta.  Across the South, winter-weary residents woke up Wednesday to a region encased in ice, snow and freezing rain, with forecasters warning that the worst of the potentially "catastrophic" storm is yet to come. From Texas to the Carolinas and the South's business hub in Atlanta, roads were slick with ice, tens of thousands were without power, and a wintry mix fell in many areas. (AP Photo/David Tulis)

    Ice hangs from foliage on a residential street on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Atlanta. Across the South, winter-weary residents woke up Wednesday to a region encased in ice, snow and freezing rain, with forecasters warning that the worst of the potentially "catastrophic" storm is yet to come. From Texas to the Carolinas and the South's business hub in Atlanta, roads were slick with ice, tens of thousands were without power, and a wintry mix fell in many areas. (AP Photo/David Tulis)

  • Shmetrice Moore, a nurse at an Emory hospital,  scrapes snow and ice off her windshield as she and others are released early from their shift before a winter storm on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Johns Creek, Ga.  From Texas to the Carolinas and the South's business hub in Atlanta, roads were slick with ice, tens of thousands were without power, and a wintry mix fell in many areas.  (AP Photo/John Amis)

    Shmetrice Moore, a nurse at an Emory hospital, scrapes snow and ice off her windshield as she and others are released early from their shift before a winter storm on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Johns Creek, Ga. From Texas to the Carolinas and the South's business hub in Atlanta, roads were slick with ice, tens of thousands were without power, and a wintry mix fell in many areas. (AP Photo/John Amis)

  • Motorists drive on a road covered in snow and ice on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Johns Creek, Ga.  Across the South, winter-weary residents woke up Wednesday to a region encased in ice, snow and freezing rain, with forecasters warning that the worst of the potentially "catastrophic" storm is yet to come. From Texas to the Carolinas and the South's business hub in Atlanta, roads were slick with ice, tens of thousands were without power, and a wintry mix fell in many areas. (AP Photo/John Amis)

    Motorists drive on a road covered in snow and ice on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Johns Creek, Ga. Across the South, winter-weary residents woke up Wednesday to a region encased in ice, snow and freezing rain, with forecasters warning that the worst of the potentially "catastrophic" storm is yet to come. From Texas to the Carolinas and the South's business hub in Atlanta, roads were slick with ice, tens of thousands were without power, and a wintry mix fell in many areas. (AP Photo/John Amis)

  • Greg and Debra Hardee walk their dogs in Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Roswell, Ga.   Across the South, winter-weary residents woke up Wednesday to a region encased in ice, snow and freezing rain, with forecasters warning that the worst of the potentially "catastrophic" storm is yet to come. From Texas to the Carolinas and the South's business hub in Atlanta, roads were slick with ice, tens of thousands were without power, and a wintry mix fell in many areas.  (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

    Greg and Debra Hardee walk their dogs in Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Roswell, Ga. Across the South, winter-weary residents woke up Wednesday to a region encased in ice, snow and freezing rain, with forecasters warning that the worst of the potentially "catastrophic" storm is yet to come. From Texas to the Carolinas and the South's business hub in Atlanta, roads were slick with ice, tens of thousands were without power, and a wintry mix fell in many areas. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

  • Josh McSwain sleds down a hill at the Shelby City Park golf course as snow begins to fall Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Shelby, N.C. (AP Photo/The Star, Ben Earp)

    Josh McSwain sleds down a hill at the Shelby City Park golf course as snow begins to fall Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Shelby, N.C. (AP Photo/The Star, Ben Earp)

  • Fred Harrill sweeps snow off his vehicle as snow begins to fall Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Shelby, N.C. (AP Photo/The Star, Ben Earp)

    Fred Harrill sweeps snow off his vehicle as snow begins to fall Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Shelby, N.C. (AP Photo/The Star, Ben Earp)

  • Traffic along Independence Boulevard near Hawthorne Lane crawls along the slick roadway as a winter storm hits   Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/The Charlotte Observer, Davie Hinshaw) MAGS OUT; TV OUT; NEWSPAPER INTERNET ONLY
  • Lamarr Lewis scrapes ice from his car window during a winter storm on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Doraville, Ga. (AP Photo/John Amis)
  • Jacqueline Helton is taken to safety by roadside assistance personnel after her car slid down an embankment on All-American Highway during a winter storm Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Fayetteville, N.C. Helton was stuck in the embankment for about two hours. (AP Photo/The Fayetteville Observer, Jill Knight) MANDATORY CREDIT, MAGS OUT. NO SALES
  • A Georgia Department of Transportation sign warns drivers of winter weather as they travel a bleak section of Highway 141 on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Norcross, Ga. The scene is the opposite of what drivers experienced two weeks ago when every major artery of metropolitan Atlanta was clogged during the last winter storm. (AP Photo/John Amis)
  • Traffic along Independence Boulevard near Hawthorne Lane crawls along the slick roadway as a winter storm hits   Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/The Charlotte Observer, Davie Hinshaw) MAGS OUT; TV OUT; NEWSPAPER INTERNET ONLY
  • Ice hangs from foliage on a residential street on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Atlanta.  Across the South, winter-weary residents woke up Wednesday to a region encased in ice, snow and freezing rain, with forecasters warning that the worst of the potentially "catastrophic" storm is yet to come. From Texas to the Carolinas and the South's business hub in Atlanta, roads were slick with ice, tens of thousands were without power, and a wintry mix fell in many areas. (AP Photo/David Tulis)
  • Shmetrice Moore, a nurse at an Emory hospital,  scrapes snow and ice off her windshield as she and others are released early from their shift before a winter storm on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Johns Creek, Ga.  From Texas to the Carolinas and the South's business hub in Atlanta, roads were slick with ice, tens of thousands were without power, and a wintry mix fell in many areas.  (AP Photo/John Amis)
  • Motorists drive on a road covered in snow and ice on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Johns Creek, Ga.  Across the South, winter-weary residents woke up Wednesday to a region encased in ice, snow and freezing rain, with forecasters warning that the worst of the potentially "catastrophic" storm is yet to come. From Texas to the Carolinas and the South's business hub in Atlanta, roads were slick with ice, tens of thousands were without power, and a wintry mix fell in many areas. (AP Photo/John Amis)
  • Greg and Debra Hardee walk their dogs in Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Roswell, Ga.   Across the South, winter-weary residents woke up Wednesday to a region encased in ice, snow and freezing rain, with forecasters warning that the worst of the potentially "catastrophic" storm is yet to come. From Texas to the Carolinas and the South's business hub in Atlanta, roads were slick with ice, tens of thousands were without power, and a wintry mix fell in many areas.  (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
  • Josh McSwain sleds down a hill at the Shelby City Park golf course as snow begins to fall Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Shelby, N.C. (AP Photo/The Star, Ben Earp)
  • Fred Harrill sweeps snow off his vehicle as snow begins to fall Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Shelby, N.C. (AP Photo/The Star, Ben Earp)

Drivers got caught in monumental traffic jams and abandoned their cars yesterday in North Carolina in a replay of what happened in Atlanta just two weeks ago, as another wintry storm across the South iced highways and knocked out electricity to more than a half-million homes and businesses.

While Atlanta’s highways were clear, apparently because people learned their lesson and heeded forecasters’ unusually dire warnings to stay home, thousands of cars were backed up on the slippery, snow-covered interstates around Raleigh, N.C., and short commutes turned into hours-long journeys.

As the storm glazed the South with snow and freezing rain, it also pushed northward along the Interstate 95 corridor, threatening to bring at least a half-foot of snow today to the already sick-of-winter mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

At least 10 deaths across the South were blamed on the treacherous weather, and nearly 3,300 airline flights nationwide were canceled.

The situation in North Carolina was eerily similar to what happened in Atlanta: As snow started to fall around midday, everyone left work at the same time, despite warnings from officials to stay home altogether because the storm would move in quickly.

“It seemed like every other car was getting stuck, fishtailing, trying to move forward,” said Caitlin Palmieri, who drove two blocks from her job at a bread store in downtown Raleigh before getting stuck. She left her car behind and walked back to work.

Soo Keith, of Raleigh left work about a little after noon, thinking she would have plenty of time to get home before the worst of the snow hit.

Instead, Keith, who is three months pregnant, drove a few miles in about two hours and decided to park and start walking, wearing dress shoes and a coat that wouldn’t zip over her belly.

With a blanket draped over her shoulders, she made it home more than four hours later, likening her journey to the blizzard scene in the movie Dr. Zhivago.

“My face is all frozen, my glasses are all frozen, my hair is all frozen,” the mother of two and Chicago native said as she walked the final mile to her house. “I know how to drive in the snow. But this storm came on suddenly and everyone was leaving work at the same time. I don’t think anybody did anything wrong; the weather just hit quickly.”

Raleigh city spokeswoman Jayne Kirkpatrick had no estimate of how many vehicles had been abandoned and was unable to say whether motorists might be stranded on the road overnight.

“If we find anyone that is stranded that needs water or food or whatever we can do for them,” city crews will help, Kirkpatrick said. “We hope it won’t be too much longer before it’s no longer a problem.”

Forecasters warned of a potentially “catastrophic” storm across the South with more than an inch of ice possible in places. Snow was also forecast, with up to 3 inches possible in Atlanta overnight and much higher amounts in the Carolinas.

Ice combined with wind gusts up to 30 mph snapped tree limbs and power lines. More than 200,000 homes and businesses lost electricity in Georgia, South Carolina had about 245,000 outages, and North Carolina around 100,000. Some people could be in the dark for days.

As he did for parts of Georgia, President Obama declared a disaster in South Carolina, opening the way for federal aid. In Myrtle Beach, S.C., palm trees were covered with a thick crust of ice.

For the mid-Atlantic and the Northeast, the heavy weather was the latest in an unending drumbeat of storms that have depleted cities’ salt supplies and caused school systems to run out of snow days.

The Raleigh area could get up to 4 inches of snow. Washington, D.C., could see around 8 inches, as could Boston. New York City could receive 6 inches. The Philadelphia area could get a foot or more, and Portland, Maine, may see 8 or 9 inches.

In Atlanta, which was caught badly unprepared by the last storm, area schools announced even before the first drop of sleet fell that they would be closed on Tuesday and Wednesday. Many businesses in the corporate capital of the South shut down, too.

The scene was markedly different from the one Jan. 28, when thousands of children were stranded all night in schools by less than 3 inches of snow and countless drivers abandoned their cars after getting stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic for hours and hours.

“I think some folks would even say they were a little trigger-happy to go ahead and cancel schools yesterday, as well as do all the preparation they did,” said Matt Altmix, who was out walking his dog in Atlanta. “But it’s justified.”

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, who was widely criticized over his handling of the last storm, sounded an upbeat note this time.

“Thanks to the people of Georgia. You have shown your character,” he said.

Amy Cuzzort, who spent six hours in her car during the Atlanta traffic standstill in January, said she would spend this storm at home, “doing chores, watching movies — creepy movies, ‘The Shining’” — about a writer who goes mad while trapped in a hotel during a snowstorm.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory urged people to charge their cellphones and find batteries for radios and flashlights because the storm could bring nearly a foot of snow in places such as Charlotte.

“Stay smart. Don’t put your stupid hat on at this point in time. Protect yourself. Protect your family. Protect your neighbors,” McCrory said.

Kathy Davies Muzzey of Wilmington, N.C., said she hid the car keys from her husband, John, because he was thinking about driving to Chapel Hill for the Duke-North Carolina basketball game. He has missed only two games between the rivals since he left school in the late 1960s. His wife made the right call: The game was postponed.

“He’s a fanatic — an absolute fanatic,” she said.

In an warning issued early Wednesday, National Weather Service called the storm across the South “catastrophic ... crippling ... paralyzing ... choose your adjective.”

Meteorologist Eli Jacks noted that three-quarters of an inch of ice would be catastrophic anywhere.

However, the South is particularly vulnerable: Many trees are allowed to hang over power lines for the simple reason that people don’t normally have to worry about ice and snow snapping off limbs.

Three people were killed when an ambulance careened off an icy West Texas road and caught fire. On Tuesday, four people died in weather-related traffic accidents in North Texas, including a Dallas firefighter who was knocked from an I-20 ramp and fell 50 feet. In Mississippi, two traffic deaths were reported.

Also, a Georgia man apparently died of hypothermia after spending hours outside during the storm, a coroner said.

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