ATLANTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Snow and ice carpeted much of the Deep South on Monday, leaving one person dead in Alabama, cutting off power to around 4,000 people in Georgia and closing countless roads, authorities said.
Up to nine inches of snow fell in highland parts of the South but authorities said a bigger problem was icy roads.
One person died overnight in a weather-related accident in Coaling, western Alabama, according to Yasamie Richardson, spokesman for the Alabama Emergency Management Agency.
“Any time you have ice on the road it is more of a concern than snow,” Richardson said.
Authorities have declared a state of emergency in Georgia and Alabama, freeing up state resources for local government use if necessary.
They have also closed schools and local government offices across Georgia, throughout most of Alabama and in South Carolina and parts of Mississippi.
Delta, the dominant carrier at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport, canceled more than 1,450 flights, including those operated by its regional affiliates.
Spokesman Anthony Black said that number represented about 25 percent of all planned Delta flights for the day. He added most of the canceled flights were Atlanta departures and arrivals.
AirTran Holdings Inc spokesman Christopher White said the Orlando, Florida, discount carrier, expected to be acquired this year by larger rival Southwest Airlines Co, canceled a total of 330 flights on Monday.
“Based on the latest forecast, we hope to begin to return to normal starting tomorrow,” White said in an email.
And the weather has had other effects too. Newly elected Georgia Governor Nathan Deal has moved his inauguration — set for Monday in Atlanta — indoors, local media reported.
Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi pride themselves on balmy winters relative to other parts of the country and are consequently often less well prepared for winter weather.
But local authorities have been warning residents for days of an impending storm and a spokesman for the Georgia Emergency Management Agency said those warnings had kept many people off the roads and thus reduced the number of accidents.
“The word’s been going out for several days and a lot of schools are closed. This morning there aren’t quite as many fender benders as last night,” said Ken Davis, spokesman for the Georgia Emergency Management Agency.
He added that at least 30 state highways and countless minor or suburban roads were closed.
South Carolina woke up to snow, sleet, freezing rain and black ice on roadways all the way to the coast. Accumulations of 9 inches were reported in the state’s upper northwest corner, with 4-6 inches reported in Greenville.
Charlotte Douglas Airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, posted flight delays of 57 minutes average.
State offices and schools in upstate South Carolina including Greenville were closed and state capital Columbia expected up to an inch-and-a-half of ice, authorities said.
Even the coast saw heavy sleet and freezing rain early overnight and early in the morning.
The Blood Connection in Greenville asked for blood donations to restock an inventory depleted by illness and recent inclement weather. A call for blood donations also came from the Red Cross in Asheville, North Carolina.
In Alabama, Huntsville airport in the north of the state was closed while Birmingham Airport was working to clear one runway.
In Mississippi, up to eight inches of snow was reported in northern parts of the state.
But for many in Alabama, the most acute fear was of power outages that could prevent a football-obsessed state watching tonight’s BCS Bowl game between the Auburn Tigers and the Oregon Ducks.
Local sports websites contained information on how to rig up a battery-operated TV set just in case.
(Additional reporting by Verna Gates in Birmingham, Leigh Coleman in Ocean Springs, Mississippi and Harriet McLeod in South Carolina and Karen Jacobs in Atlanta)
Editing by Jerry Norton