Historic Ice Storm Immobilizes Ground, Air Travel in the South

By Brian Lada, Meteorologist
February 13, 2014; 3:19 AM ET
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Although the worst of the storm has passed, parts of the Southeast will continue to experience the effects of the winter storm tracking up the East Coast Thursday.

Residents of both North and South Carolina will see more snow, sleet and freezing rain on Thursday while the rest of the area receives a break from the winter weather.

The event could turn out to be the worst ice storm for parts of the South in more than 10 years.

The first batch of snow, sleet, rain and freezing rain affected the South Monday into Tuesday and caused hundreds of flight delays in the region.

@Ayysia_Ashley tweeted: "Happy Wednesday! Snow & iced in. Praying for no power outages. Do some school work today! Stay warm & safe Atlanta!"

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Colder air pressed southward into the region Tuesday night, setting the stage for major wintry problems on Wednesday.

The second batch of snow and ice hit many of the same areas throughout the day Wednesday, causing nearly 3,100 flights to be canceled for Thursday.

As of Wednesday evening, the number of flights that had been canceled topped 4,000 with more than 2,000 at Atlanta International Airport alone.

According to AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski, "For many areas east of I-59 and near and north of I-20, this part of the storm will be much worse than the first."

The wintry precipitation on Wednesday afternoon focused on an area stretching from northern Georgia to central and upstate South Carolina, and much of North Carolina and Virginia. Some snow and ice also reached into portions Tennessee.

In many cases, roads were too dangerous for travel due to freezing rain, sleet and snow. In Raleigh, traffic stood at a standstill around rush hour, as dozens tried to get home in the storm.

For folks that absolutely must travel through Thursday, allow extra time in anticipation for delays as the snow and ice can rapidly accumulate on roadways, especially on bridges and overpasses.

While sleet is hazardous and difficult to remove, freezing rain brings the greatest risk for power outages and travel. This storm will bring both to many communities. However, the communities that receive between 0.50 and 1.00 inch of freezing rain could face severe and long-lasting problems.

Earlier in the week, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal announced a State of Emergency for more than 80 counties in the state ahead of the winter storm. Also, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley issued a state of emergency for the entire state. A state of emergency was in effect for all of the Carolinas and Virginia on Wednesday.

AccuWeather.com Winter Weather Center
South Interactive Radar
Major Winter Storm to Target Northeast Late Week

According to Senior Meteorologist Mark Mancuso, "This has all the makings of a historic ice storm from northern Georgia to central and upstate South Carolina to central North Carolina through Wednesday."

Much of this area lies just southeast of I-85. Along much of this major thoroughfare, heavy snow will fall as well.

The area from near Atlanta to Columbia, S.C., and Fayetteville and Raleigh, N.C., may be ground zero for the ice storm. Some communities may experience great devastation from freezing rain.

A heavy buildup of freezing rain on trees and power lines can lead to scores of fallen trees, widespread power outages and bring travel to a halt.

On Wednesday night, an emergency manager in Allendale, S.C. reported that downed power lines had caused multiple fires to ignite across the community.

"A number of communities over the interior South may have more significant, much longer-lasting sleet, freezing rain and snow when compared to the storm from late January," AccuWeather.com Southern Weather Expert Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski said.

It may take many days for power to be completely restored across this area due to heavy icing over such a large area.

As of Wednesday evening, one third of a million people were without power across the South.

"While parts of the South are hit with an ice storm about once every three years, this storm could have a similar outcome to that of 2002 for some locations," Kottlowski said.

Heavy snow will fall on the northern Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia mountains with some locations forecast to receive a foot of snow or more. A half of a foot to a foot of snow may fall in Winston-Salem, Greensboro, and Charlotte, N.C., and Roanoke, Va. The snow will precede heavy ice around Raleigh and Fayetteville, N.C.

Although locations along the I-10 corridor will escape the ice, heavy rain associated with the storm can lead to localized flooding, especially in low-lying and poor-drainage areas.

This storm will continue to track up the East Coast heading into Thursday, delivering over a foot of snow to portions of the Northeast.

For folks looking for a break in the cold, wintry pattern, a change to much warmer weather is possible beginning around Feb. 17 or 18 and may continue through much of the balance of the month.

Prior to the warmup next week, a more modest storm will swing from the Central states on Friday to the East Coast by Saturday.


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