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Atlanta, GA, Jan. 28 (AP by Patricia M. LaHay)–A powerful storm crawled across the Southeast today, bringing icy rain and snow to a region still reeling from a wintry blast earlier this week. Thousands were urged to stay home and Super Bowl planners worried about disruptions surrounding this weekend’s game in Atlanta.
“So much for the global warming theory,” said Wayne Nicholas of Cleveland, Miss. “Out this way we’re looking like one of those snow globes that has been turned upside down and shaken.”
The storm dumped more than a foot of snow in parts of Arkansas and Mississippi by early today. Lighter amounts were reported farther east, but forecasters warned that icy sleet could coat roads and power lines from Alabama to the Carolinas by tonight.
Snow began falling in Georgia before dawn and the state was under a winter storm watch today. By 5:30 a.m., icy roads were blamed for 11 accidents, none of them fatal, in Carroll County, said John Hutcheson, a dispatcher with the state patrol.
Kay Williams drove six miles in the snow to open her restaurant, the Snack Shack, before dawn in Whitesburg, but had few customers.
“The kids are out of school, so a lot of people are staying home with them,” she said. “I’m normally packed out.”
Many nervously awaited the arrival of freezing rain _ all too familiar after last weekend’s storm left 500,000 customers without electricity and caused an estimated $55 million in damage.
The state Emergency Management Agency’s State Operations Center, which had closed Wednesday, opened again early today.
Coming out of a supermarket in Tifton, Ga., Betty Turner and her sister-in-law pushed a cart full of ham, potato salad and soft drinks.
“I didn’t take the millennium seriously, but I’m taking this seriously,” Mrs. Turner said. She ordered extra natural gas for her back yard tank so she’ll have gas to cook and badgered her son into stocking up on firewood so her three grandchildren will stay warm.
In Atlanta, the Tennessee Titans and St. Louis Rams, who had been practicing on outdoor fields, were to practice indoors at the Georgia Dome where Sunday’s game is scheduled to be played. Up to 4 inches of snow were forecast today in a city preparing for thousands of tourists and one of the biggest events in professional sports.
“We know a couple of inches here can totally shut things down,” said Jim Steeg, the National Football League’s vice president of special events.
The storm hammered Oklahoma and Texas on Thursday, closing schools and businesses and causing airline cancellations in Dallas. The Capitol in Oklahoma City was closed for the first time in a decade and the storm left 17 inches of snow in Eufaula, 100 miles farther east.
By this morning, 15 inches of snow had fallen on parts of Arkansas and a foot in Mississippi, where state lawmakers hurried home for a long weekend. National Guard units were called out in Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama to help stranded motorists.
“At one time it was coming so thick, it looked like the world ended 200 yards from the windows,” said Pati Brown, the manager of the Mountain Harbor Resort in Mount Ida, Ark., where there was a foot of snow.
About 1,000 motorists were stranded along Interstate 30 in snowy southwestern Arkansas late Thursday. National Guardsmen were summoned to rescue them.
“It just came on so fast. There was no way to know we were going to be trapped,” said Betty Hagan, traveling from Illinois to her home in Dallas. “I spent the first 35 years in Illinois and I’ve never been trapped like this.”
Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee closed most state offices Thursday, sending 50,000 workers home, and said only essential employees had to show up today. The snow came down so hard in Hot Springs _ 7 inches in four hours _ that office workers couldn’t see across the street.
In Alabama, where schools and colleges were shut down as several more inches of snow fell today, Gov. Don Siegelman urged residents to stock up on water, non-perishable foods, batteries and flashlights. Grocery store parking lots were packed as many remembered a 1993 storm that left people without power for days.
“I went to three different stores last night looking for bread and they were all out,” said Charlotte Holloway, holding two loaves as she waited in line at a store in Pelham.
While parts of the Plains and Southeast need the moisture, bad weather is the last thing many residents in the hard-hit Carolinas want to see.
Forecasters predicted some sort of icy rain or snow in North Carolina this weekend after Monday’s storm left up to 2 feet of snow. Some 40,000 homes and businesses were still without power today.
“I’m dreading this weekend,” said Randy Deese, a North Carolina state transportation worker in Asheville.
Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press