Schools close as South starts getting rare snow
PENSACOLA, Fla. – Schools were shuttered and flights canceled across the South on Friday as snow began falling, bringing a rare white landscape that could stretch into areas that haven’t seen snow in a decade — or longer.
Winter storm warnings spanned the Gulf Coast states early Friday as the snow crawled east out of Texas, where it left the Dallas area with more than a foot of snow, nearly 200 traffic accidents and hundreds of canceled flights. Snow, ice and sleet closed parts of Interstate 49 in central Louisiana early Friday.
Areas of northern and central Louisiana got 5 inches or more of snow before dawn Friday. In southern Mississippi, 3 inches had fallen in McComb and 2 inches were on the ground in Tylertown. One to 3 inches of snow had fallen in Jackson. Snow also began falling in southern Alabama, where up to 5 inches was expected.
Predictions of an inch of snow was enough to close schools in the Florida Panhandle, while classes also were canceled in parts of Alabama.
In Pensacola, Fla., heavy rain fell early Friday as the area braced for possible snow.
Even a Starbucks in nearby Gulf Breeze delayed opening. Jim Pavelic, a retiree from Chicago who relocated to Florida, made his way to the door of the store around 6:20 a.m. and read the sign noting the store would open late “due to the unprecedented weather patterns.”
Pavelic couldn’t believe it.
“You cannot even get a cup of coffee and it’s raining,” he said, laughing. “At least I don’t need a snow shovel.”
Several oceanside communities in South Carolina including Charleston — which hasn’t seen recorded snowfall since January 2000 — could see between 2 and 4 inches of snow, said Jonathan Lamb, a National Weather Service meteorologist based in Charleston.
And as much as 3 inches could hit Savannah, Ga., where snow was last traced in February 1996 — “and that was only 0.2 inches,” Lamb said. It’s been two decades since Georgia’s oldest city had any notable accumulation, with 3.6 inches falling in December 1989. Normally, temperatures in February don’t dip below 41 degrees.
“There’s no doubt this is a significant event for us,” Lamb said.
Highway patrol troopers in Texas, Alabama and several other states warned of treacherous morning commutes. Dallas police responded to 41 major traffic accidents and 132 minor ones Thursday, though no serious injuries were reported.
Nearly 1,100 flights were canceled systemwide by Fort Worth, Texas-based American Airlines and American Eagle airlines Thursday — about 30 percent of American’s daily flight schedule, said American spokesman Steve Schlachter. Of those, 305 were flights from Dallas-Fort Worth.
The snowfall made this the snowiest winter in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in 32 seasons.
In Atlanta, Delta Air Lines canceled 400 flights for Friday in anticipation of as much as 2 inches of snow expected in the region. AirTran also thinned its schedule, announcing Thursday plans to cut 32 of its flights on Friday because of the threat of snow. That included flights in and out of Atlanta.