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Record Cold Kills In Deep South With AM-Storm Rdp Bjt

March 15, 1993

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) _ Temperatures fell to just 2 degrees above zero Sunday in Alabama, a state better known for warm Gulf shores and camellias, and snowdrifts up to 6 feet high stranded travelers.

Seven deaths were tied to the cold; one man died at a bus stop. Thousands of people shivered in homes without electricity.

Birmingham received a record 13 inches of snow - more than it has gotten before in an entire winter.

The most snowfall in the state was 17 inches south of Birmingham, the National Weather Service said.

But elsewhere, wind piled the snow in drifts 6 feet high, bringing the northern half of Alabama to a virtual standstill.

″It’s like two tracks in the snow. That’s the road,″ said Ray Sondag of the weather service in Birmingham.

Gov. Guy Hunt declared a state of emergency because of power outages and icy roads and ordered the National Guard to patrol highways and help stranded motorists.

Hunt also sent a small National Guard military police unit to downtown Birmingham. Scattered looting was reported Saturday night in the city’s poor northern section, said Donny Claxton, Hunt’s spokesman.

Thousands of motorists were stranded on Interstate 65 by snow, ice and jackknifed trucks, said Chilton County Emergency Management Agency Director Bill Collum. The highway reopened late Sunday.

″Our shelters have been packed since late last night,″ Collum said.

More shelters were being opened Sunday, he said.

″We’ve had several busloads of baseball teams, school groups. We took off a tour group of 39 senior citizens last night,″ Collum said. ″They had been on the interstate seven or eight hours, just stranded due to accidents. All of them said ’Well, we thought we could make it through.‴

Nancy Wahl and her husband, Amos, were returning to Paducah, Ky., from Florida vacation when they were turned back by accidents on I-65 late Saturday.

″We slept on the courthouse floor last night and we’ll sleep in the church tonight,″ said Mrs. Wahl, a professor at Murray State University.

The Wahls were among 500 people ″warming pews″ at West End Baptist Church in Clanton, north of Montgomery.

Two men died in separate house fires while trying to keep warm by a coal- burning fireplace and wood-burning stove.

The deaths of three elderly people in Jacksonville were blamed on the cold, including a woman whose snow-covered body was found on a neighbor’s porch, one man found in a Birmingham bus shelter and a 69-year-old Florence man, a victim of exposure, found dead just a few feet from his apartment door.

About 300,000 customers did not have electricity Sunday, down from 430,000, according to Alabama Power Co. Many had been without service since the storm began early Saturday and officials said it would be several days before all service was restored.

Update hourly