Snow, ice descend on South


Layla Felder, 4, rides on her father Nic's back as they slide down a snow-covered hill in Atlanta's Piedmont Park on Saturday. 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.

The Associated Press
Published: Sunday, January 20, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 19, 2008 at 11:03 p.m.

Intense, stormy weather blasted across much of the South - North Central Florida included - on Saturday, blanketing Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana with several inches of snow and causing minor power outages and downing tree limbs in areas west of Gainesville.

A tornado watch and severe thunderstorm warning were issued by the National Weather Service for most of North Florida Saturday afternoon and evening, and the ensuing storm resulted in widely scattered reports of outages and fallen debris, especially in Levy County and western Alachua County, as the weather system moved through shortly before sunset.

To the south, the National Weather Service said a tornado touched down at 5:26 p.m. in New Port Richey, with winds felling some streets signs and trees. A second tornado touched down in the Weeki Wachee area in Hernando County at 5:45 p.m., but there were no reports of damage.

Elsewhere across the South, snow, rain and sleet spread across southern Mississippi and Alabama and a mixture of ice and snow descended upon Atlanta, leading airlines to cancel several hundred flights.

Although all five runways at Atlanta International Airport were reported open Saturday, some flights bound for the airport were delayed by more than four hours.

Delta Air Lines had about 260 flight cancellations Saturday and AirTran Airways said 78 flights were canceled by afternoon and more cancellations were expected.

Snowfall stretched from Louisiana across southern Misssissippi and into Alabama, with as much as 5 inches in Alabama and as much as 3 inches in southwestern Mississippi - that area's first snowfall since 2001.

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 National Weather Service.

In North Central Florida, forecaster Eric Oglesby said the cold air that moved in behind Saturday evening's storm will force overnight temperatures below freezing Sunday night.

Sunday should be sunny with a high in the 50s, but it will feel cooler because the wind will be out of the north at 10 to 20 mph. Sunday night temperatures should dip to about 29. Monday will be partly cloudy and slightly warmer, with a high in the mid-60s, but winds will continue at 10 to 20 mph. On Monday night, temperatures will fall to only about 50.

"We also have a small craft advisory in effect through Monday evening," Oglesby said. The advisory is for boating conditions up to 20 miles from the coastline in the Gulf of Mexico.

Sunday the weather service is forecasting coastal winds out of the northeast at 20 to 25 knots, seas at 5 to 7 feet and rough bay and inland waters. On Monday the boating forecast calls for 20-knot winds out of the east with seas at 3 to 5 feet and for bay and inland waters to be choppy.

Karen Voyles can be reached at 352-359-5656 or kvoyles@gmail.com.

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