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Winter Storm Pax Update for South: Power Slowly Returning to Thousands in Georgia, N.C. and S.C.

February 17, 2014

Power is returning to the hardest hit areas of Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina Friday, 48 hours after Winter Storm Pax coated trees and power lines with a thick layer of ice and snow. 

At least 26 deaths in the region have been blamed on the winter storm, which dumped snow and ice up the East Coast, snapped trees and utility poles and snarled traffic. The damage in some parts of the south was so devastating that  South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley compared it to the aftermath of a hurricane.

"I didn't know this was going to be in the same realm as Hugo," Haley, who toured damaged areas Friday, said of the hurricane that struck in 1989. "To look at these neighborhoods and see the trees down and on houses - to see all of the devastation that's happened to this community - is terrible."

(FORECAST: New Storm for Weekend)

While the impacts are waning, thousands of people are still waiting for power to return. Below is the latest from southern states that are still struggling to recover.

Alabama

Authorities say a north Alabama man is dead after a car crash they are describing as being related to winter weather. State troopers say 39-year-old Jeremy Wayne Glenn of Falkville died in a one-vehicle wreck near Danville late Thursday. Some roads in north Alabama were still icy at the time, and troopers say the wreck was weather-related. The road where the accident happened was slippery, and Morgan County Coroner Jeff Chunn says Glenn was thrown out of a vehicle that rolled over. Glenn's stepfather was badly injured in the crash.

Georgia

State government officials scaled back their emergency operations and crews worked to finish restoring power to homes and businesses as conditions improved following a winter storm that dumped snow and ice on much of Georgia.

Three deaths in Georgia have been attributed to the storm. An 65-year-old woman was found dead in her unheated trailer in Whitfield County, and a 50-year-old Butts County man died outside of his home, most likely of hypothermia, according to AJC.com.

In the east Georgia town of Millen — an area hard-hit by power outages — authorities say a 5-year-old girl died early Friday after a candle sparked a fire in her home, which had lost power. The girl's parents are both hospitalized for burns and smoke inhalation, said Glenn Allen, a spokesman for the state fire marshal's office.

The family was using a generator and a space heater to stay warm, but fire investigators determined that an unattended candle in a bathroom caused the blaze. The girl's father escaped but went back inside to try to rescue his daughter and was injured, Allen told The Associated Press.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal warned that there were still patches of ice on roads.

"People still need to be careful," he said. "The roads may appear to be perfectly safe, but it doesn't take but one icy spot to cause a very serious collision."

In one accident on Interstate 75, a vehicle skidded on ice and crashed into several parked cars whose drivers had stopped to help another person.

A state of emergency remains in effect through Sunday for 91 of Georgia's 159 counties. Deal on Friday extended his state of emergency declaration through Wednesday for 15 of those counties that were the hardest hit.

Nearly a million homes and businesses in Georgia lost power during the storm and its aftermath, but most had power restored by Friday. Of the 989,400 customers who lost power, only 1,500 were still in the dark by Friday night.

(MORE: The 10 Worst Ice Storms in American History)

Kentucky

A pastor died after the four-wheeler he was using to clear snow slid off a steep driveway in Knott County. Carlos Craft was the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, according to WKYT-TV.

Mississippi

Two traffic deaths are blamed on the storm in Mississippi. The Mississippi Highway Patrol said David Watson Sr., 67, of Carrollton, died Tuesday in a one-vehicle accident on Mississippi Highway 35 in Carroll County when his car hit and icy patch and overturned. Also Tuesday, Tara N. Pugh, 27, of Reform, Ala., died when her Jeep Wrangler apparently skidded after crossing an icy bridge in U.S. Highway 82 in Lowndes County and rolled down an embankment.

North Carolina

Digging out or hitting the road before black ice melted proved deadly the day after a winter storm hit North Carolina, as five more people died in weather-related accidents, including two Good Samaritans killed while trying to help a fellow traveler.

Winter Storm Pax dumped as much as 22 inches of snow in the mountains while pelting the eastern part of the state with ice.

Three people died in car accidents on icy roads Thursday evening and Friday, including two men who tried to help the driver of a tractor-trailer cab that had spun out and was sitting perpendicular to Interstate 40 near Garner. One man faces charges that include second-degree murder in that hit-and-run wreck.

Authorities said one man also died when his car first hit an icy patch, then utility pole in Charlotte. Also killed were two people who authorities believe suffered heart attacks while shoveling snow in Burke County.

Officials earlier had attributed three deaths to the storm, including a Pender County man who died Wednesday when a tree limb broke off an ice-covered tree and struck him outside his home in a mobile home park in Rocky Point. Two people also died in traffic accidents in Moore and Chatham counties.

While ice made travel hazardous Friday morning, staying at home wasn't much better for residents without power. Almost 30,000 utility customers were without power Friday afternoon, down from 47,800 earlier in the day and 133,000 Thursday afternoon, state emergency officials said.

Yancey County's Mount Mitchell, the tallest peak in the eastern United States, had the most snowfall in the state with 22 inches, said meteorologist Mike Strickler of the National Weather Service in Raleigh. Lower elevations near the mountain saw storm totals of 12 to 20 inches in Surry, Yadkin Wilkes and Alleghany counties, Strickler said. Statesville got up to 18 inches of snow, and to the south in Charlotte 4 to 6 inches were reported.

The Triad area of Winston-Salem, Greensboro and High Point, totals were generally in the 6- to 8-inch range, Strickler said. About 5 inches to 8 inches fell in the Triangle area of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, he said.

Fortunately, most of the state missed an extended period of freezing rain, since an accumulation of about a quarter-inch of ice is generally enough to weigh down and snap tree limbs and power lines, Strickler said. About .10 to .30 of an inch of freezing rain fell between Greensboro and Raleigh, he said.

"We were right around the quarter-inch mark and thankfully we didn't get too much more than that, otherwise the power outages would have been a lot more significant," he said.

McCrory was clearly irked that a bus of basketball players from Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C., was among the vehicles stuck on a North Carolina road.

"I would ask the question of the conferences, what the heck were you doing on a bus last night?" he asked at his Friday news conference. "We need to ensure that we always put public safety over activities that are not a priority to the health and safety of players and coaches, other people involved in games, but also the spectators."

The Chanticleers were returning from game Wednesday night at VMI and had stayed in Lexington, Va., that night because of the snow, said school athletics spokesman Mike Cawood. The ride home took almost 21 hours, with the players leaving about 8:30 a.m. Thursday and arriving in Conway about 5 a.m. Friday.

A couple of tractor-trailers had jackknifed on Interstate 77/74 in Surry County, causing the backup, said Mike Charbonneau, spokesman for the state Transportation Department.

"There never needed to be any saving or anything like that," Cawood said. "They just stayed on the bus and waited for the bus to start back up again."

South Carolina

Gov. Nikki Haley said Friday this week's ice and snow storm has devastated parts of South Carolina worse than a hurricane.

The Republican governor said her driving tour of downtown Aiken made her understand why the storm left 350,000 people without power at the peak. Statewide, that number had dropped to under 225,000 by midday. Nearly a quarter of those were in Aiken County alone, where downed trees, branches and power lines littered roadways.

(MORE: These Are the Differences Between Sleet and Freezing Rain)

The landscape of Aiken, a city that takes prides in its stately trees, has been completely damaged, bu what matters, she said, is that people stay safe and help their neighbors.

"We can put up new trees. We can get the debris off the roads," she said. "It's about lives and making sure we're taking care of people."

As heavy as the damage was in Aiken, she said, she knew it would be worse in Colleton County, where she was headed next, to tour parts of Walterboro. Rural areas of the state have fewer resources than Aiken, she said: "That's the part that troubles me."

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama declared South Carolina a disaster area, at Haley's request.

Haley said she asked for the declaration out of precaution and may make specific requests for federal help later Friday. That could include large generators for water plants. Parts of Aiken County lack water service too.

"Today's going to be the day we decide whether we need generators, food, water, anything we don't have," she said.

Keller Kissam, president of SCE&G retail operations, said the storm has been as devastating to the utility's infrastructure as Hurricane Hugo. It will be Monday before most of Aiken County will be cleaned up and power restored, though some areas will take longer, he said.

One coastal South Carolina electric cooperative lost 50 poles in the ice storm, compared to 21 in the last hurricane, officials said.

The ongoing storm and ice buildup complicated restoration earlier in the week, as lines continually went down, said Gary Stooksbury of Aiken Electric Co-Operative, explaining why some customers' power went in and out. One circuit in Edgefield County went down seven times, he said.

"For the first two days, we put up lines, and they tore down right behind us," he said.

Tennessee

Many schools remain closed Friday in Knoxville and throughout eastern Tennessee. Some government employees have a delayed start to the day, according to wbir.com. Pax left several cities with the most snow they'd seen in years. For the first time since 1996, Knoxville recorded a snowfall of five inches or greater. Seven inches fell in Chattanooga for the first time since 2011, and Bristol had its first five-inch snow event since Dec. 18, 2009. Higher elevations saw 16 inches of snow. Tennessee DOT says some roads in parts of Anderson, Knox, Sevier and Union counties remain icy, and recommend drivers use caution. 

(MORE: Crazy Photos of Grocery Store Shelves Wiped Clean Before the Storm)

Texas

A total of seven people have been killed in car accidents on icy roadways since the storm began several days ago.

Good Samaritans help push a stranded motorist stuck in deep snow on Stefko Boulevard Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014 in Bethlehem, Pa. (AP Photo/Chris Post)

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.


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