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South Braces for More Snow

January 29, 2000

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ Still digging out from heavy snow that paralyzed their communities earlier this week, residents from Georgia to North Carolina kept a close watch on another storm system that threatened a wintry mix of rain, snow, sleet and freezing rain.

Spurred by cabin fever and more accessible roads, residents went to stores Friday to restock pantries while road crews continued to battle snow and ice.

``We’re digging out of one and getting ready for another,″ said state emergency management spokesman Tom Hegele.

The latest storm, which dumped up to 17 inches of snow in Oklahoma earlier this week, dropped between an inch and a foot in Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee before stalling near the Alabama-Georgia line for most of the day Friday. In Arkansas, the weather was blamed for three deaths _ two in traffic accidents and one man who apparently froze to death.

``It could be a very, very serious time for us,″ said Phil Badgett, a forecaster at the National Weather Service in Raleigh, buried earlier in the week by a record 2-foot snowfall. ``If we get as much precipitation as we’re expecting _ a half-inch to an inch of freezing rain _ that would be crippling.″

Some sleet and freezing rain already was falling in parts of Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina early today.

In Georgia, the wintry mix was expected to continue throughout the day but play out by Super Bowl Sunday, when no precipitation was expected, forecasters said.

That would be good news for Atlanta, where a major storm could cause major problems with more than 100,000 fans expected in town for the big game.

Fans arriving at Hartsfield International Airport on Friday morning were relieved that they beat the bad weather.

``I feel very lucky that we made it here, that the flight did not get canceled,″ said Todd Benson, 28, of Kansas City, Mo.

While travelers worried, thousands of children in the Deep South enjoyed a rare snow day. They threw snowballs and built snowmen as their parents took Friday off from work.

Officials elsewhere were treating the weather with urgency.

Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove activated about 300 National Guardsmen to help communities.

President Clinton, meanwhile, approved a disaster declaration late Friday for 30 Georgia counties because of an ice storm last week that left 500,000 customers without electricity and caused an estimated $55 million in damage.

In North Carolina, Gov. Jim Hunt asked Clinton to declare 26 counties disaster areas, which would make them eligible for federal funds. Roughly 25,000 utility customers throughout the state remained without power late Friday.

While people prepared for the latest blast of winter, evidence of Monday night’s 20-inch snowfall in Raleigh remained everywhere. A week of low temperatures kept the snow from melting and hampered road crews’ efforts.

John and Karen Bianchino loaded their pickup truck outside a Raleigh supermarket with groceries for themselves and neighbors who couldn’t get out. They said the trip to the store took two hours because of slick roads.

Gery Sandling emerged from a hardware store with what he could find on the depleted shelves _ a bag of sand, a flashlight, spare batteries and a 2-by-4 to brace his carport roof.

``It worries us about the weekend,″ Sandling said. ``We’ve already spent a lot of time digging out. I’ve never seen anything like this.″

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