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Record Snowfall Blankets Mississippi

December 15, 1997

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) _ A record-breaking storm dumped snow on Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama, knocking out power and leaving icy roads even as some took time to play in the rare winterlike weather.

``My kids have been outside since 8 o’clock this morning. I’m afraid they’re going to freeze to death,″ Angela Wright said Sunday as she watched her sons Brian, 10, and Hunter, 7, build an igloo in the front yard of their Jackson home.

``They’ve never seen snow like this before. They think it’s magic.″

Up to 10 inches of snow covered parts of south-central Mississippi in the state’s biggest December snowstorm on record. It also was the heaviest snowfall since Jan. 22, 1982, when 5.5 inches fell.

Scattered power outages, downed trees and traffic accidents were blamed on the storm, which gave way to a late-afternoon thaw.

``I’m loving it,″ Cari Price of Madison, Miss., said as she used a broom to push several inches of snow off her car windshield. ``It’s so beautiful. I wish we got this every year.″

While parts of Louisiana were recording more than 4 inches of snow, parts of the often frigid and snowy Midwest were basking in warm weather. While it was 35 degrees with freezing rain in Birmingham, Ala., it was 66 in Rapid City, S.D., and 53 in Bismarck, N.D., under fair skies.

In west-central Alabama, Teri and Lindsay Holliman used plastic bags as makeshift sleds near Brookwood High School’s football field.

``We were so excited because it hasn’t snowed in such a long time,″ said Lindsay, 15.

The storm tapered off in most areas by Sunday evening, replaced by an overnight freeze that threatened to make morning commutes dangerous for drivers. Schools were closed today in several Alabama counties.

Emergency shelters in Jackson were opened for people who had lost electricity in their homes. Entergy Mississippi Inc. officials reported that 18,000 customers had lost power at one point.

Alabama Power spokesman J.G. Brazil said fewer than 2,000 outages were reported in the Tuscaloosa area, with most in Sumter and Greene counties. The company expected to have all power restored by today.

Maj. Jimmy Dees of the Mississippi Highway Patrol in Jackson said state troopers had responded to dozens of accidents. At least one traffic death in Alabama was blamed on weather-related driving conditions.

The storm surprised even the National Weather Service in Alabama.

``It kind of slipped up on us, the heavier snow anyway,″ meteorologist Jim Smith said. ``It had been calling for snow all week and we were about to give up on it.″

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