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Snow, Ice Leave 14 Dead in Texas, Ark.

February 26, 2003

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) _ More freezing rain fell on the south-central United States on Wednesday after storms dumped more than a foot of snow in Arkansas and contributed to at least 14 deaths.

Interstate highways were closed in Oklahoma and Texas, and at least three dozen flights Wednesday morning were canceled at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

Bad weather also arrived in Washington hours earlier than forecasters _ and commuters _ had expected. Heavy squalls and slick streets plagued the capital during the morning rush-hour, and some schools canceled or delayed classes.

Forecasters said the South’s latest storm would move on to areas south of the Ohio River before reaching the East Coast south of New York.

In Texas, weather-related traffic accidents killed six people and three immigrants died from hypothermia. In Arkansas, five people died in traffic accidents, including a stranded motorist and two people who had stopped to help.

The three died Tuesday when a vehicle driven by state Rep. Johnnie Bolin went over a slick spot and plowed into them on a median of Interstate 530 near Redfield. Bolin was hospitalized but not badly hurt. Police said no charges were being considered.

``I want to extend my deepest sympathies to the families of the victims,″ Bolin said Wednesday. ``They’re in our prayers as a result of a very horrifying experience.″

In Tulsa, Okla., Larry Carlin shoveled snow, hoping to prevent the 8 inches of snow already on the ground from freezing hard.

``The last time I remember it being this cold this long was way back in the 1970s,″ said Carlin, 60, who has lived in Tulsa for 26 years. ``When we first moved here, about three years passed before it snowed. And even then, our daughter had to gather snow from four yards to build a snowman.″

Interstates 20, 45 and 35 south and east of Dallas-Fort Worth were shut all night by jackknifed tractor-trailer rigs, stranding hundreds of motorists in their cars, officials there said.

``As soon as they clear one collision, another was happening,″ said Department of Public Safety Sr. Cpl. Robert White.

In Oklahoma, the freezing rain closed part of Interstate 40 about 90 miles east of Oklahoma City, near Henryetta, for a few hours Wednesday. A day earlier, the National Guard patrolled roads in Humvees and carried two dozen stranded motorists to a Red Cross shelter.

In Arkansas, some motorists were trapped in their vehicles for 10 hours on slippery I-40 after a truck jackknifed outside Little Rock. Truck drivers walked down the highway knocking on car windows to make sure everyone was all right.

``My stomach was growling because I hadn’t eaten anything,″ said motorist Renee Lewis. ``That man went back to his cab. He brought us chips, cupcakes, baked chicken and rice. I cannot believe somebody took the time to do that.″

Wrecks and slippery pavement also closed roads in parts of Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama; schools were closed in parts of all six states.

``I’m sick of winter. I’m going to go kill the groundhog,″ said Carla Gaster, with Nashville’s Boy Scouts of America Service Center.

The heaviest snowfall Tuesday was 13 inches at Mount Ida, Ark., in the Ouachita Mountains. Up to 8 inches of snow fell overnight in southeastern Oklahoma.

The Washington area was expecting much less snow than that, and Maryland state police predicted few major problems.

``After the 28-inch record snow fall last week, I think we can handle 2-3 inches. The biggest thing is traffic _ it’s down to a slow crawl,″ said Thornnie Rouse, a state police spokesman.

Drivers reported that a normal one-hour drive from Warrenton, Va., to Washington on Interstate 66 took as long as four hours.

In Southern California, snow fell at elevations as low as 4,500 feet after a Pacific storm moved east from the Los Angeles Basin. A motorist whose pickup truck skidded off the Pasadena Freeway and plunged into a waterway was rescued by a Los Angeles fire helicopter crew in the early morning darkness.


On the Net:

National Weather Service: http://iwin.nws.noaa.gov

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