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Snow, ice sends US cities reeling

Atlanta - The snow and sleet have stopped falling and traffic was moving again around Atlanta following a crippling storm - but transportation and rescue officials said that didn't mean it was safe yet to drive in the hub of the American South, especially after the sun goes down.

Officials from the Georgia Department of Transportation said Wednesday night that they were concerned with sub-freezing overnight lows potentially leading to layers of black ice coating roads that might appear to be safe.

Abandoned cars litter the roadway on the Southbound Connector due to a snow storm in Atlanta, Georgia. A rare ice storm turned Atlanta into a slippery mess, stranding thousands for hours on frozen roadways and raising questions about how city leaders prepared for and handled the cold snap that slammed the US South. REUTERS/Ben Gray/Atlanta Journal/Constitution/Handout via Reuters. Credit: REUTERS

A storm that dropped just inches (centimeters) of snow Tuesday wreaked havoc across much of the South, closing highways, grounding flights and contributing to at least a dozen deaths from traffic accidents and a mobile home fire. Yet it was Atlanta, home to major corporations and the world's busiest airport, that was Exhibit A for how a Southern city could be sent reeling by winter weather that, in the North, might be no more than an inconvenience.

The Georgia State Patrol responded to more than 1 460 crashes between Tuesday morning and Wednesday evening, including two fatal crashes, and reported more than 175 injuries.

Temperatures were expected to drop to about 15 degrees Fahrenheit (-9.4 Celsius) overnight in the Atlanta area, according to National Weather Service forecasters. Although it was supposed to be in the high 30s Thursday, it is forecast to dip below freezing again before rising into the 50s on Friday.

Heeding the warnings, school districts and state and local governments stretching from northwest to coastal Georgia announced that offices and classrooms would remain closed Thursday.

At Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, more than 400 flights in and out were canceled by 6 a.m. local time Thursday, according to data from the flight tracking service FlightAware. Many of those flights were canceled before the day began.

Thousands of schoolchildren either slept on the buses that tried and failed to get them home, or on cots in school gymnasiums. All were back home by Wednesday evening, officials said.

Sapa-AP

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