WINTER WEATHER: At least 8 deaths blamed on winter weather

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ATLANTA (AP) — 2:40 p.m.

The number of deaths blamed on harsh winter weather in the South has risen to eight — including an 8-month-old baby in a car that plunged into a canal in suburban New Orleans.

Three other deaths in Louisiana are attributed to the weather. The governor's office says that includes an elderly man who died after falling in a weather-related incident in Pointe Coupee Parish, a firefighter who died after being struck by a car at an accident scene in West Feliciana Parish, and a man knocked off the elevated portion of Interstate 10 in New Orleans when a pickup truck spun out of control on the ice.

In Georgia, two men died in a traffic accident Wednesday morning on Interstate 75. A weather-related crash killed a woman in West Virginia. And a homeless man in Houston apparently died of exposure.

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1:55 p.m.

At least five deaths are being blamed on cold weather in the South.

In central Georgia, Bibb County Coroner Leon Jones tells The Associated Press that the driver of a Ford Mustang hit an icy spot on Interstate 75 Wednesday morning and lost control, sending the vehicle into a Honda Civic with two men parked on the roadside.

Jones says two men with the Civic died; both were from Warner Robins, Georgia.

Authorities say weather-related crashes on slick roads killed one person each in Cabell County, West Virginia, and in New Orleans.

Officials in Houston say a homeless man found dead Tuesday behind a trash bin apparently died of exposure. It's unclear exactly how long the man had been dead, but temperatures in the Texas city were in the 20s.

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1:25 p.m.

A county coroner in Georgia says two people have been killed in a crash on an icy stretch of Interstate 75.

Bibb County Chief Coroner Leon Jones tells The Associated Press the driver of a Ford Mustang lost control of the car and collided with a Honda Civic and a man standing near that car on the roadside about 80 miles (130 kilometers) southeast of Atlanta. The man standing near the Civic and another man inside the car were killed in the Wednesday morning crash.

Jones said it wasn't known Wednesday afternoon why one of the men was standing outside the car and the other one inside it.

Jones, who went to the crash scene, said the area was very icy.

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12:55 p.m.

Transportation employees in South Carolina are working to keep highways passable as snow moves into the central and western parts of the state.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation said late Wednesday morning that crews pretreated bridges and interstate highways and are working to keep vehicles rolling safety.

The agency said about 1,400 employees are involved in the effort.

Workers have put down nearly 480,000 gallons (1.8 million liters) of salt brine. Workers have also distributed nearly 6,200 gallons (23,400 liters) of chemicals and 1,800 gallons (6,800 liters) of salt. Other crews have distributed more than 240 tons (218 metric tons) of sand.

As much as 4 inches (10 centimeters) of snow is possible across South Carolina, with the highest snowfalls expected around Rock Hill.

The weather prompted Gov. Henry McMaster to postpone his State of the State address scheduled Wednesday night until Jan. 24.

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12:45 p.m.

Tow truck driver Charles Prewitt says he worked all night trying to aid cars and trucks that ran off icy roads in southern Mississippi as a blast of cold air broke records in the South.

Prewitt, who works for B&W Towing of Collins, said he's gotten more than 20 calls for help, but couldn't get to all of them. Problems included 18-wheel trucks that were sliding backwards down hills on a section of U.S. 49 between Jackson and Hattiesburg.

A tow truck driver for three years, Prewitt says it's hard for him just to reach calls.

The University of Southern Mississippi canceled classes as temperatures dropped below 20 degrees (-7 Celsius) and ice coated some roads in Hattiesburg.

Most major highways remain open in Mississippi, although the state Department of Transportation closed some bridges, including three major bridges along U.S. 90, Mississippi's beachfront highway.

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12:30 p.m.

Icy runways have forced cancellation of morning flights at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.

That's just one example of how an arctic blast hitting the South is disrupting air travel.

The need to de-ice planes is causing major delays at the world's busiest airport, in Atlanta. About a quarter of the day's 360 arrivals and departures have been canceled at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

And 90-minute delays are being reported in Memphis, Tennessee, another major hub in the U.S. air transportation system.

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11:50 a.m.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards says on Twitter that he's declared a state of emergency across the state "due to the winter weather and dangerous conditions."

In the brief statement on social media late Wednesday morning, the governor's office says more than 1.5 million pounds (680,000 kilograms) of salt has been distributed around the state to use on roadways.

The governor says 1,200 state transportation department employees are working "around the clock" as the state works to reopen shuttered roads and bridges around Louisiana.

The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development is urging people to only drive if absolutely necessary.

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11:30 a.m.

A Georgia Department of Transportation spokeswoman says icy conditions are persisting on many roadways, but all interstates were passable by late Wednesday morning.

Agency spokeswoman Natalie Dale said crews were out working from south of Columbus, Georgia, up to the Tennessee border and about three-quarters of state roads were affected.

She said it was "an all hands on deck situation."

With temperatures not expected to rise above freezing Wednesday a hard freeze overnight was likely, meaning icy conditions are expected to continue into Thursday she said.

Dale said many side roads and neighborhood streets aren't being treated and are icy and dangerous. State officials urged people to stay off the roads.

She said people keep asking when Georgians "will get the all-clear." She said that wouldn't happen Wednesday.

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11:05 a.m.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said state government offices will remain closed Thursday in 83 of the state's 159 counties.

Deal said in a statement Wednesday that only essential employees would report to work in the 83 counties hard-hit by the wintry weather that swept across Georgia on Tuesday night.

The governor said the decision was made on a recommendation from Georgia's Emergency Operations Command.

Deal said that ice is continuing to accumulate on Georgia roads since freezing temperatures were continuing Wednesday.

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10:40 a.m.

Many of Louisiana's interstates are shuttered because of ice and snow that accumulated on roads and bridges overnight.

The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development is urging people to only drive if absolutely necessary.

Among the closures Wednesday morning are parts of Interstate 49 which cuts through central Louisiana up to north Louisiana. In southern Louisiana, closures included Interstate 10 from Lafayette to near Slidell 170 miles away; Interstate 12 from Baton Rouge to near Covington 70 miles away; and all of Interstate 55, which runs from southeast Louisiana to the Mississippi state line.

Every major interstate in the capital city of Baton Rouge was shut down Wednesday morning.

State officials warn that temperatures likely won't warm enough during the day to clear many major thoroughfares of ice.

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10:20 a.m.

There was snow on the beach in Mississippi, and residents were being urged to save energy by avoiding bathing.

Many rural Mississippians rely on electricity to heat their homes, and the frigid weather was pushing power demand sky-high. Cooperative Energy, which generates and transmits power for 11 cooperatives in southern and western Mississippi, was appealing for customers to lower their thermostat and hold off on showers or washing clothes.

The National Weather Service says Wednesday morning's low of 10 degrees (-12 Celsius) in Jackson was the lowest in Mississippi's capital city since 1996. Greenwood's low of 5 degrees (-15 Celsius) was the coldest reading there since 1989.

The state Department of Transportation says at least some roads are icy in all 82 of the state's counties, and traffic was struggling to cross slick hills in some locations.

A thin layer snow is even lying on the beach in Biloxi.

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10:20 a.m.

Snow has moved into South Carolina and Gov. Henry McMaster has postponed his first State of the State address.

The National Weather Service issued winter storm warnings or winter weather advisories for most of the state Wednesday, except for the south coast.

Forecasters said less than 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) of snow was expected in central South Carolina. That forecast ranged up to 6 inches (15 centimeters) of snow in the Rock Hill area. Lesser amounts were expected in the northwestern and northeastern parts of the state.

McMaster's first State of the State address, scheduled for Wednesday evening, was rescheduled for Jan. 24.

The South Carolina Senate also canceled its Wednesday meeting.

Many schools and government offices were closed or delayed in western and central South Carolina.

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8:50 a.m.

Icy conditions are hampering travel as far south as the Gulf Coast, where stretches of a major freeway have been closed.

Louisiana transportation officials say Interstate 10 is closed in multiple parishes because of icy patches, and the same highway is closed across Alabama's Mobile Bay because of ice with temperatures in the teens.

Traffic along the coast was being diverted to U.S. 90, but that highway also was covered with ice in spots. A traffic camera showed an 18-wheeler stuck on an ice-covered Cochrane Bridge in Mobile.

Forecaster say temperatures will rise to the upper 30s along the coast Wednesday and sunshine should help clear away the ice.

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8:50 a.m.

Snow moved into North Carolina and weather forecasters are promising cold temperatures will follow.

The National Weather Service issued winter storm warnings or winter weather advisories for almost all of North Carolina for Wednesday.

The weather service said from 3 inches (8 centimeters) to 5 inches (13 centimeters) of snow was possible in western North Carolina on Wednesday.

Up to 6 inches (15 centimeters) of snow was possible in the central part of the state.

Schools were closed or delayed across the state, as were local government operations.

Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency Tuesday, which helps ease the movement of supplies to areas that might be hard hit from the snow.

Temperatures are expected to be below freezing Wednesday night, making black ice likely Thursday morning.

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8 a.m.

The frigid air that brought snow and ice to the South has ushered in record-breaking low temperatures for New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, as well as other cities in the South.

The National Weather Service said it was 21 degrees (-6 Celsius) before dawn Wednesday in New Orleans. That breaks the city's record low temperature for the date, which was 23 degrees (-5 Celsius) set in 1977.

Baton Rouge also is seeing record-breaking temperatures. It was 15 degrees (-4 Celsius) there before dawn, breaking the record of 18 degrees (-8 Celsius) from 1977.

In Mississippi, the temperature in Hattiesburg dipped to 13 degrees (-11 Celsius) early Wednesday, breaking the previous record low of 14 (-10 Celsius). In the capital city of Jackson Wednesday morning, the temperature was hovering just above the city's record low of 10 degrees (-12 Celsius).

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6:45 a.m.

Major delays are being reported at the world's busiest airport in Atlanta.

The Federal Aviation Administration said early Wednesday that snow and ice have prompted officials to delay takeoffs. Some arriving flights also are being delayed more than an hour.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport said in a statement last night that crews were de-icing airplanes as wintry weather moved into metro Atlanta.

The flight tracking service FlightAware.com early Wednesday reported 90-minute delays at the airport in Memphis, Tennessee, a major hub in the U.S. air transportation system.

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2:20 a.m.

A wintry mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain has blanketed a large swath of the South, trailed by a blast of frigid air that could approach record low temperatures.

By Tuesday evening, steadily dropping snow was forcing cars on Interstate 75 about 15 miles (25 kilometers) northwest of Atlanta to slow considerably amid scattered fender benders.

National Water Service meteorologist Ryan Willis in Peachtree City says the forecast calls for 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5 to 4 centimeters) of snow in metro Atlanta through Wednesday morning. Forecasters said travel could be difficult because of below-zero (-18 Celsius) wind chills.

The same slippery conditions and dangerous wind chills swept across several southern states Tuesday, shutting down interstates, triggering highway crashes, closing airport runways and prompting widespread school closings.

The system was expected to push into the Carolinas overnight.