Winter storm scatters sleet, ice and misery around the South

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — A brutal winter storm scattered a wintry mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain from normally balmy north Florida up the Southeast seaboard today, adding to the misery of a bitter cold snap as bridges iced over and cars spun out on slickened overpasses.

Only a few motorists ventured out in freezing rain that coated bridges and ramps with ice, forcing police to close roads and highways in the historic Georgia coastal city of Savannah. Some cars spun out into guardrails and ice from rain and freezing rain coated the windshields of cars. Police urged drivers to stay off the roads in a region little accustomed to the kind of winter woes common to the Northeast.

Ahead of the storm, dump trucks spread sand on bridges and major streets, and Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach warned residents to stay home. Many heeded the mayor's warnings Wednesday, with few drivers out and schools, many businesses and even City Hall closed for the storm.

"The streets will be slick," DeLoach had said in advising Southerners to batten down. "We could have some serious issues for folks who aren't used to driving in this kind of weather."

The coastal city that hasn't seen measurable snowfall since February 2010 was expecting up to 2 inches of snow and sleet in today's forecast.

As the storm settled in, patrol cars with flashing lights blocked elevated ramps, closing off routes slickened by the storm. Porch steps leading up to many of Savannah's elegant Southern homes were frozen over and at least one major causeway was already closed, along with several bridges.

The National Weather Service said the snow and freezing rain was expected to spread up the coast to the Carolinas, amid warnings that icy roads and low visibility could make driving treacherous. Accumulations of 3 to 5 inches were possible in eastern North Carolina.

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