Southern snow disrupts flights


Layla, Nic Felder
Layla, Nic Felder

Layla Felder, 4, rides on her father Nic's back as they slide down a snow-covered hill in Atlanta's Piedmont Park Saturday, Jan. 19, 2008. A mix of snow, rain and sleet fell Saturday on the upper third of the state, forcing airlines to cancel nearly 340 flights and causing arriving passenger delays of up to four hours at the world's busiest airport.

Johnny Crawford/The Associated Press
Published: Saturday, January 19, 2008 at 8:42 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 19, 2008 at 8:42 p.m.

ATLANTA - Snow, rain and sleet spread across parts of the South on Saturday, dusting lawns and shrubs with flakes and leading airlines to cancel several hundred flights.

Enough snow fell in Montgomery, Ala., for children to make snowballs to toss in front of the state Capitol, although the snow melted on contact with pavement.

Eleven-year-old Khryshanna Taylor saw snow for the first time Saturday in Montgomery and was unimpressed.

"I have decided that I don't like snow!" she said as she hurried home after a brief attempt at a snowball fight. "If it snows again, I'm going to move out of the state!"

Snow also fell as far south as southwestern Mississippi, with totals of as much as 3 inches, although the ground was too warm to allow it to accumulate. It was that area's first snowfall since 2001, the National Weather Service said.

All five runways at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport were reported open, but an automated Internet report from the Federal Aviation Administration said some flights bound for the airport were delayed by more than four hours.

Delta Air Lines Inc. had about 260 flight cancellations Saturday, spokeswoman Betsy Talton said. AirTran Airways spokesman Tad Hutcheson said 78 flights were canceled by afternoon and more cancellations were expected.

"We do have flights but with delays due to deicing, customers need to bring patience with them," Hutcheson said in a statement.

The last time snow fell at Leander, La., 30 miles west of Alexandria, was three or four years ago, "but right now it's coming down," said resident Zelle Nichols, 78. She said her outdoor thermometer read 32 degrees at 7:35 a.m.

Meteorologists in Georgia warned that the area's mixture of rain and snow could make roads icy Sunday morning, after overnight temperatures only in the upper teens and low 20s.

"We're really stressing people should, especially in the north metro area, stay off roads as much as possible," said Laura Griffith of the weather service office in Peachtree City.

The weather service posted freeze watches for Saturday night and Sunday morning in parts of Louisiana, including the New Orleans area. New Orleans put its freeze plan into effect to provide temporary shelter for the homeless for Saturday and Sunday nights.

As much as 5 inches of snow fell in Alabama. The state's last major winter storm dropped 16 inches in March 1993.

Two tornadoes touched down along Florida's west coast late Saturday afternoon, the weather service said. There were no reports of injuries.

While the snow and cold were relatively rare occurrences for Southerners, people in northern states like to think they're accustomed to winter weather.

Although Saturday's highs were below zero in most of Minnesota, nearly 100 people ran in the Frozen 5K at Spicer, Minn., and about 75 people clad only in swimsuits dove into northern Minnesota's Lake Bemidji while the air temperature was 15 below zero.

"I'm old enough to know better," Bob Panther, a 55-year-old dentist, said a few minutes after he joined the Bemidji swim.

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