Heavy Snow In Southern Plains; Much Of U.S. Locked In Arctic Grip
Undated (AP) _ A powerful storm piled up snow and glazed roads with ice across the South today, stranding hundreds of travelers and closing schools and offices, while a cold wave kept much of the nation in its Arctic grip.
Since Saturday, the weather was blamed for 28 deaths, including 12 by exposure. Thousands of homeless people flocked to already crowded shelters, prompting authorities to open armories and state buildings.
Wednesday’s storm headed east today after dumping about a foot of snow from Utah and southern Colorado across Oklahoma and southern Kansas to parts of Arkansas, and closing schools as far east as the Carolinas.
Arizona, New Mexico, Missouri, and northern Mississippi got lesser accumulations. Heavy ice and snow accumulations coated highways in northern Texas and Louisiana.
The storm spread snow across the South, closing schools, roads and businesses in Alabama and Georgia. First lady Nancy Reagan canceled a scheduled trip to Nashville, Tenn., where more than 5 inches of snow fell.
Much of the East was under winter storm advisories through Friday.
″We’re not recommending travel unless it’s life or death or God’s will or something like that,″ said state Highway Patrol spokesman Lee Lamirand in Oklahoma City, where a record 11.9 inches of snow closed Will Rogers World Airport overnight. The airport reopened one runway this morning.
State Transportation Director Neal McCaleb declared a storm emergency Wednesday and hired private contractors to help keep the roads open in what he called the ″third 20-year storm″ in a month.
″If the wind comes up, we’re in a world of hurt,″ said Paul Gray, a Kansas Department of Transportation superintendent. ″We can keep the snow plowed if we don’t get wind. We can plow snow, but we can’t plow visibility.″
On Wednesday, subzero high temperatures lingered across Minnesota, Wisconsin, northeast Iowa and Indiana, and single-digit highs prevailed in Illinois and central New England, but light winds prevented deadly wind chills.
The snowstorm shut down the newly convened Oklahoma Legislature until next week, and state agencies began sending home non-essential employees at 2 p.m. Wednesday.
″To my knowledge, there’s not a shovel available in the state,″ said David Shumake of Horn Seed Co. in Oklahoma City. ″We have sold steel shovels, plastic, aluminum ... anything that can move any volume of snow is gone.″
In Texas, more than 7 inches fell over northwestern areas. The snow in Dallas forced officials to cancel classes.
Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and Dallas’ Love Field remained open but thousands of passengers waited for flights that either were canceled or delayed by de-icing and gate assignment changes.
Record lows were recorded in at least 11 cities Wednesday, including Chicago’s minus 14, 10 below zero in South Bend, Ind., and 2 below zero in Youngstown, Ohio. National Weather Service forecasters said it would stay chilly for at least a few more days.
Chicago’s O’Hare International had a minus 7 degree reading at 1 a.m. today, but on Wednesday the temperature rose above zero during the daylight hours for the first time since 3 p.m. Monday, the weather service said.
Record power demands knocked out service to than 14,000 Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. customers Tuesday and Wednesday, said utility spokesman John Metzger. Scattered outages were also reported Wednesday in Delaware.
Delmarva Power & Light Co., which serves the Eastern Shore, broke its peak winter demand record for the second straight day Wednesday, when ouput hit 1854 megawatts at 8 a.m.
In Baltimore, a Mass Transit Administration bus followed a Salvation Army mobile meal truck through the city Wednesday night, offering a free ride to city-run shelters for people sleeping outdoors.
Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton closed most state offices today because of heavy snow. Fifteen inches of snow fell on western Arkansas, with a foot reported in Little Rock.
Rhode Island Gov. Edward D. DiPrete ordered shelters opened in Providence, Pawtucket, Cranston and Newport because of reports that the 250 beds at the state’s existing shelters were full.
North Carolina Gov. Jim Martin opened 101 armories in 74 counties as emergency shelters. More than a foot of snow fell on parts of the state and winds were recorded at 40 to 50 mph.
New York City, with overnight wind chills of minus 20, sheltered 8,478 men and 1,298 women Wednesday, one more than the season’s high on Sunday. Its no- heat hotlines logged more 4,000 calls, twice the average for a January day, officials said.
Four deaths were attributed to exposure in Illinois, two in Michigan and one each in Missouri, West Virginia, Indiana, Ohio, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. Four traffic deaths were blamed on the weather in Texas, two each in Oklahoma and Louisiana, and one each in Arkansas, South Carolina, Connecticut, Utah, Ohio and Michigan.
One man was suffocated in Colorado by a propane heater, and a Texas Highway Department employee died when a truck’s sand-spreader box fell on him.