Snow, ice leave 9 dead in Texas

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- A fast-moving winter storm churned across the South on Tuesday, dumping 13 inches of snow in Arkansas and leaving at least nine people dead in Texas as a glaze of ice wreaked havoc on highways.

More nasty weather was on the way for the region, meteorologists warned.

Authorities said at least six people died in weather-related traffic accidents and three immigrants died of hypothermia in South Texas.

Ice in North and Central Texas sent cars spinning and grounded planes. A series of collisions snarled traffic on Interstate 20 near Dallas; several 18-wheelers were jackknifed, said Department of Public Safety Sr. Cpl. Robert White.

"As soon as they clear one collision, another was happening," he said.

In South Texas, where temperatures struggled to reach the mid-30s, three undocumented immigrants were found dead Tuesday morning after fellow immigrants sought help from border patrol agents.

In Arkansas, some motorists were trapped in their vehicles for 10 hours on slippery Interstate 40 after a truck jackknifed outside Little Rock. Truck drivers walked down the highway knocking on car windows to make sure everyone was all right.

"My stomach was growling because I hadn't eaten anything," said motorist Renee Lewis. "That man went back to his cab. He brought us chips, cupcakes, baked chicken and rice. I cannot believe somebody took the time to do that."

Wrecks and slippery pavement also closed roads in parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee Mississippi and Alabama; schools were closed in parts of all six states.

"I'm sick of winter. I'm going to go kill the groundhog," said Carla Gaster, with Nashville's Boy Scouts of America Service Center.

Oklahoma officials closed some roads indefinitely because they were coated with snow and ice. The National Guard, patrolling the roads in Humvees, carried two dozen stranded motorists to a Red Cross shelter.

The National Weather Service said another round of light snow and freezing rain and ice would pass through Oklahoma and Arkansas early today, then move through the Ohio Valley to the mid-Atlantic states.

More than half of Arkansas' 310 school districts called off classes Tuesday, giving thousands of youngsters the day off to play in the snow.

The heaviest snowfall Tuesday was 13 inches at Mount Ida, Ark., in the Ouachita Mountains. Up to 8 inches of snow fell overnight in southeastern Oklahoma and 5 inches of sleet was possible north of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, which was already covered with a layer of ice.

At Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, American Airlines canceled about 220 morning flights, airline spokesman John Hotard said. Delta canceled 27,; about 2,500 travelers spent the night at American terminals, Hotard said.

In Southern California, snow fell at elevations as low as 4,500 feet after a Pacific storm moved east from the Los Angeles Basin. A motorist whose pickup truck skidded off the Pasadena Freeway and plunged into a waterway was rescued by a Los Angeles fire helicopter crew in the early morning darkness.

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