The Big Thaw Begins for the South After Winter Storm Leon: State-by-State Impacts

February 6, 2014

The remnants of Winter Storm Leon's wintry side have finally pushed off the East Coast, but lingering snow and ice means some Southern schools will be canceled again Friday.

At least a dozen deaths have been blamed on the storm, including five traffic fatalities in Alabama. Some kids who spent the night in Alabama schools Tuesday woke up in those schools again Thursday since roads were still too dangerous for buses.

(STORM REPORTS: Winter Storm Leon)

The Georgia governor said all Atlanta-area students who stayed in schools Tuesday night were finally home by 6 p.m. Wednesday, but there were still problems on roads across the metro area. Several school districts in the Atlanta area have canceled classes again Friday. 

Here is a look at the latest impacts, as told state by state.

(PHOTOS: These People Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity)

Alabama

Tow trucks, police and National Guard troops began clearing away thousands of vehicles abandoned during the winter storm as rising temperatures Thursday began thawing out the epic mess on interstates and other roads. Gov. Robert Bentley said the massive job of removing the deserted vehicles that litter Alabama roadways was Thursday's major challenge in the aftermath of a rare Southern snow storm. Bentley said he was encouraging municipalities to just tow cars to the shoulder of the road, instead of taking them to lots and charging the driver.

The final Alabama school students got back home Wednesday night after being stranded overnight in classrooms and gymnasiums because of the winter storm. Alabama Department of Education spokesman Michael Sibley said Thursday the last of the students got home by 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. Schools in metro Birmingham will be closed again Friday.

At least five people died in weather-related accidents across the state; Another 23 were injured during the storm. The Associated Press says the deaths were in Wetumpka, Marion and Cottondale. The Alabama Department of Transportation is towing abandoned cars off Interstate 20 to clear it, and car owners can call 205-382-5820 for information about their vehicles. 

Florida

Schools were closed again Thursday in Santa Rosa and Escambia counties. Temperatures warmed enough to make almost all bridges in the Panhandle safe for drivers again. The Bob Sikes Bridge, the Pensacola Bay Bridge, the Bayou Chico Bridge and the Theo Baars Bridge all opened again Thursday, according to the Pensacola News Journal.

Georgia

Cobb, Cherokee and Fulton County Schools announced they would remain closed Friday, as well as Atlanta City Schools. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal took responsibility Thursday for the poor storm preparations that led to an epic traffic jam in Atlanta and forced drivers to abandon their cars or sleep in them overnight. Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed have found themselves on the defensive ever since the snow started falling.

"We did not make preparations early enough," Deal said at a news conference, apologizing to drivers who were stranded and to parents of children forced to sleep at their school or on school buses. "I'm not going to look for a scapegoat. I am the governor. The buck stops with me," he said. He pledged that his agencies would go under review and make new plans, warning the public may be inconvenienced the next time severe weather is in the forecast.

Charley English, the head of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, also took some of the blame, saying he had "made a terrible mistake and put the governor in an awful position." English said he should have declared the state emergency command center open earlier and recommended much sooner that state employees be sent home.

"I made a terrible error in judgment earlier, late on Monday afternoon and early Tuesday," he said at the news conference.

(WATCH: Baby Delivered on Interstate)

Louisiana

Louisiana's highway department says every highway that had been closed because of ice has been reopened. Ice closed more than 20 state and U.S. highways for more than two days. The last five to reopen included the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway and Interstate 55 between Hammond and LaPlace.

Mississippi

South Mississippi residents welcomed the big thaw Thursday as temperatures rapidly began rising toward 50 degrees, melting remaining ice on roads and bridges. All of South Mississippi's major bridges were open, but a few smaller bridges were still closed, including the Corso Bridge in D'Iberville and the David LaRosa bridge near Pass Christian. Since those have smaller traffic counts, crews were getting to those last. Any lingering ice should completely melt during the afternoon hours and by Saturday temperatures across Mississippi will be pushing 70 degrees.

(MORE: The Science Behind Naming Winter Storms)

North Carolina

Morning temperatures ranged from minus-4 degrees in Asheville and Reidsville to 32 degrees at Kill Devil Hills. Temperatures went above freezing in the afternoon, but forecasters warned that melting snow on roadways would likely refreeze into black ice after dark. Gov. Pat McCrory urged those on the roads to continue to exercise caution even as conditions improved. Two people died Wednesday in separate traffic accidents in Surry County. Duke Energy reported nearly 3,000 customers without service early Thursday in the western part of the state. The biggest problem is in Stanly County, where nearly 1,000 customers are without service. Charleston County schools announced a 2-hour delay Friday morning.

(WATCH: Chipper Jones to the Rescue)

South Carolina

The Ravenel Bridge in Charleston has reopened after being closed more than 43 hours for ice. Mount Pleasant police reported the barricades were removed from the bridge a little after 3 p.m. Thursday. It was the last major road to reopen after Tuesday's coastal ice storm. The eight-lane, two-mile bridge closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday. The closing left just the Interstate 526 bridge open during Thursday morning's rush hour from Charleston to Mount Pleasant. It took drivers an hour to make it 12 miles on I-526 from Mount Pleasant to Interstate 26. A few schools were also closing Friday as ice spots remained, especially along the coast. A freezing rain advisory for the coast will be posted until at least midnight.

(MORE: How A Young Mother and Her Baby Girl Were Rescued)

Tennessee

Roads in the region are still rough, particularly through the Smokies, so travel is discouraged. The Chattanooga Times Free Press is reporting that the Hamilton County Emergency Management Agency activated its Emergency Operations Center to respond to all the accidents. A few dozens schools in eastern Tennessee will remain closed Friday, according to WBIR-TV.

Virginia

A combination of heavy snow and temperatures that didn't go much above freezing meant cities were still digging out in Virginia. While the city of Norfolk says it's opening at 10 a.m. Friday, many area schools will either be closed or delayed two hours Friday according to WAVY-TV. The Navy is also telling only mission-essential personnel to report to work at its south Hampton Roads bases. Hampton Roads Transit said there is too much snow and ice on the roads and canceled Friday bus service.

Snow covers the grounds at Talladega Superspeedway Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, in Talladega, Ala. (AP Photo/David Tulis)

The Associated Press contributed to this report


Ad Blocker Enabled

Featured Blogs

Darby Makes the Closest Pass to Honolulu by a Tropical Storm in Recorded History

By Dr. Jeff Masters
July 25, 2016

The closest approach on record by a tropical storm to the island of Oahu resulted in torrential rains in excess of ten inches there as Tropical Storm Darby passed just 40 miles to the south and west of Honolulu, Oahu on Sunday with sustained winds of 40 mph. No other named storm on record has passed that close to Honolulu or Oahu since accurate records began in 1949.

Hottest Reliably Measured Air Temperatures on Earth

By Christopher C. Burt
July 22, 2016

As Jeff Masters mentioned in his recent blog, a temperature of 54.0°C (129.2°F) was observed at Mitribah, Kuwait on July 21st. According to the Kuwait Meteorological Department this was the hottest temperature ever measured in the country (a reading of 54.4°C/129.9°F observed at the same site on July 16, 2010 has been disallowed as a result of a faulty sensor). The 54.0°C reading also is a new record for Asia and ties a similar reading at Death Valley (on June 30, 2013) as the hottest reliably measured temperature on Earth. The key word here is ‘reliably’. Many hotter temperatures have been reported from around the world in years past. However, all of these have credibility issues. In that vein I am going to revisit a blog I first posted on WU in October 2010 listing all the various claims to temperature readings at or above 54°C (129.2°F). In the years since I made that post I’ve learned more about some of these claims and have thus updated my entries and ‘validity’ scores as a result.

An extraordinary meteorological event; was one of its results a 1000-year flood?

By Stu Ostro
October 5, 2015

The confluence of meteorological ingredients the first weekend in October 2015 resulted in an extraordinary weather event with severe impacts. Was one of them a 1000-year flood?

Why the Arrest of a Science-Loving 14-year-old Matters

By Shaun Tanner
September 16, 2015

By now, many of you have heard or read about the arrest of Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old high school student from Irving, Texas. Ahmed was arrested because school officials called the police after he showed one of his teachers his homemade clock. Mistaken for a bomb, Ahmed was taken into custody, interrogated, shamed, suspended (still on suspension today, Wednesday), and reprimanded. All of this after it has been found that the "device" he brought to school was indeed, a homemade clock.