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Bitter Cold Follow Tornadoes in South; Sleet and Snow In East

March 8, 1996

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) _ Rain, snow and bitter cold descended on parts of the South Thursday, plunging temperatures almost 50 degrees a day after tornadoes swept through Alabama and killed seven people.

The cold snap, which also brought freezing rain and snow to the Northeast, was blamed for at least two deaths Thursday, in a car accident on a snowy road in Morehead, Ky., that killed a woman and her teenage daughter.

In Montgomery, where the high reached 81 Wednesday, the temperature was in the 30s Thursday and snow flurries whirled around the Capitol. Overnight lows were expected in the low 20s in northern Alabama and low 30s along the coast.

``This is quite a change. This is a heck of a change,″ said Sherman Thomas, a bank customer bundled tightly in a leather jacket in Montgomery. ``That’s mother nature.″

In Arkansas, the National Weather Service advised that overnight wind chills in the northern half of the state could reach 15 below zero.

In the Northeast, freezing rain and snow on Thursday shut down airports and roads, delayed trains and snarled traffic along the East Coast. More than a foot of snow was expected in northern New England overnight.

``What we’ve had the last couple of days is the appetizers before the main course,″ said meteorologist Paul Head, with the National Weather Service in Massachusetts. ``She’s gonna come a snowin’ and a blowin’ in tonight _ a real nor’easter.″

Boston’s Logan International Airport closed for 90 minutes Thursday and the Newark International Airport reported delays of up to an hour with some carriers were canceling flights.

On Wednesday, tornadoes and high winds ripped apart several mobile homes in Alabama, killing four people near Selma, two in Montgomery and one in Auburn.

The high winds moved into Georgia Thursday, where a tornado in rural Wrens cut a swath three-quarters of a mile wide and two to four miles long. Two brick homes and seven mobile homes were destroyed and 25 houses were damaged.

The high winds shattered gravestones, forced students to crouch in hallways for an hour during a tornado alert and swatted away four grain bins.

Some survived near misses by tornadoes.

At the Peanut Mart, a 300-acre farm and peanut processing plant in southwest Georgia, owner Royce McCrary said the winds from a nearby tornado tilted the trailer he was standing in about six feet up on one side.

``And then it just set us down _ like laying a blanket on a baby, that’s how gentle it was,″ McCrary said.

In Sidney, Ark., Peggy Williams escaped serious injury when a tornado destroyed her trailer by crawling under a wooden deck completed only last week, Mayor Gwen Battles said. When the winds passed, a third of the woman’s trailer was lodged against some nearby trees and the rest had disintegrated. Only the deck was undamaged.

Among the Arkansas buildings damaged was the landmark log Maxville Church, built in 1865, in south Sharp County. The logs were scattered _ undamaged _ and officials say the church will try to rebuild it.

Heavy rains across the South caused flooding in parts of Georgia and Alabama. As much as 4 inches fell Thursday in parts of Alabama, nudging a half-dozen rivers toward flood stage. In southeastern Kentucky, the Cumberland River was expected to reach several inches over flood stage Friday.

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