People along the Gulf Coast are already reporting being iced in and it is only expected to get worse. Schools have been closed, and many businesses followed suite. Still, the commute to work will come all too soon for many Southerners tomorrow morning, and many of these people are not used to driving in these conditions.
Amanda Perez of Meridian, MS reported, " It started out as a few snowflakes, then it just started coming down. Before we knew it there had to be 2 inches on the ground, and it is still snowing." She also said, " we stocked up on children's cold and fever medicine, put the dogs in the house and made sure we were well stocked with water and back up heat in the event that we lose power; what I am concerned about is driving my sister to work in the morning on these narrow and winding roads"
While Austin got hit the hardest at first with road closures and weather related accidents the rest of the region quickly followed suite. Some LA perishes even put a curfew in effect after 6 pm allowing only emergency vehicles on the road.
This is a very serious and deadly situation. While some states may balk at what they would consider "light snow fall" one has to remember these are people who many have never seen let alone driven in these conditions. They would have no idea how to maneuver out of black ice or winter weather related situations on the road.
Winter Storm Leon did not come to the south quietly. It hit with strong winds and heavy snowfall quite suddenly. Thousands of flights have been grounded as well as business and school closings across the south are being reported. Many unprepared drivers are also becoming stranded with no emergency kits in place like those that individuals who live in the Northern states would have on hand.
Several deaths have already been reported. Vehicle pile-ups like the one in Wetumpka, Al that killed 2 people are coming in steadily. Birmingham, Al is reporting traffic gridlock involving literally thousands of people. Power grids are at full capacity, and there are worries about regulated blackouts to keep up with the demand without crashing the grid altogether.
Dr. Greg Postel who is a winter weather expert from the Weather Channel stated, "Travel is just a nightmare across much of Georgia, and even in Alabama and Mississippi with the snow across the region."
Weather.com meteorologist Chris Dolce released a statement saying that "Winter Storm Leon is bringing a long swath of freezing rain, sleet and snow from southeast Texas to the Gulf Coast, Georgia, the Carolinas and southeast Virginia; No matter what type precipitation falls in any given location, travel conditions are likely to be dangerous into Wednesday. Part of southeast Georgia and coastal South Carolina are of particular concern for significant amounts of freezing rain, which could cause tree damage and power outages."
Alabama has went as far as to declare a civil emergency with more than 300 National Guard troops activated to aid the state. Supermarket shelves ere void of winter essentials and bottled water. Much of the state is shut down entirely. The government in Mobile has been closed for Wednesday, and power outages are expected.
The Florida panhandle is iced over. Power lines are froze, and the Pensacola Naval Air Station is running on skeleton crews. They are under a state of Emergency until midnight Wednesday. People are being asked to stay off of the roads. Power outages are being reported across the state.
Georgia got sideswiped by the storm. Businesses and schools tried releasing people in time but it ended up with civilians and school children being stuck on the interstates for more than 2 hours.
Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana also declared a statewide emergency. Many incoming and outgoing flights are canceled, and people have been told to stay off of the roads. Jindal stated that, "45 of Louisiana's 69 school systems, while state offices would be closed in 46 of the state's 64 parishes." More than 2000 Entergy Corp. workers have been placed on standby for the expected fallout of Winter Storm Leon.
Weather Channel meteorologist Reynolds Wolf said,"Although people in Louisiana are not really used to dealing with winter weather, they are used to dealing with tropical systems, and they're actually going to prepare for them the same way;They have to have the batteries, they have to have the food, they have to do what they can to stay warm during these times."
Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant has closed every state office that would be impacted by winter weather, and this includes the Jackson area Capitol Complex. The board of education websites will have school closings and updated information.
Sadly, near the Alabama boarder a family of 4 perished in a space heater related fire. The occupants ranged from 3 months old to 30 years old. It happened in Itawamba County, and temperatures had dipped below 20 degrees the night of the fire.
The winter weather is expected to get worse before it gets better in these hard hit states. People are being asked to stay home. Stay off of the road at all costs unless absolutely necessary. The death toll is expected to rise from Winter Storm Leon.