A winter storm that spread ice and snow from Mississippi to Maine is leaving behind cold so bitter that businesses and schools are closing in the South because the region still hasn’t thawed.
Four deaths have been blamed on the storm, which dropped more than a foot of snow in southern New England, caused a former governor to fall on his icy driveway in Mississippi and could bring the first below-zero weather to parts of North Carolina in more than 20 years.
Meanwhile, the West Coast is dealing with the next storm, which brought the potential of a crippling ice storm to western Oregon and heavy rain to California mountains used to seeing snow this time of year. Forecasters warned of possible mudslides and the worst flooding in more than a decade.
In the East, the worst, lingering problems were expected in North Carolina where up to 10 inches of snow and sleet fell in places Saturday .The deep freeze followed. Forecasters predict temperatures won’t get above freezing in much of the state before Tuesday afternoon, a big problem in a place where officials depend on usually mild weather to melt away the ice and snow on less traveled routes. One person died in Montgomery County when a car slid off icy Interstate 73/74 into a tree Sunday morning, Gov. Roy Cooper said.
There was one happy ending. Two hikers missing for more than a day in the frigid North Carolina mountains without food and water and only a small fire for warmth were rescued from waist-high snow. A helicopter using a tool that can detect heat found the hikers around 5 p.m. Saturday in the Shining Rock Wilderness area about 25 miles southwest of Asheville. Cooper said rescuers got to the men about two hours later, just in the nick of time.
School systems across North Carolina went ahead early Sunday and canceled Monday’s classes in part because of icy roads, but also because of bitter cold temperatures making it dangerous for children without proper clothes to wait for buses and difficult to keep buildings warm.
The National Weather Service predicted lows around zero or below on Monday morning in Greensboro, North Carolina, marking only the 15th time in 113 years of records it has gotten to zero or negative numbers. Forecasters said the snow cover would lead to the unusually cold readings.
But when the thaw comes, it will be quick. Highs in the South are forecast in the 70s on Friday.
In the West, forecasters said flooding from the storm moving onshore and a second predicted bout of heavy rain Tuesday could cause flooding in northern California and Nevada similar to problems in 2005 and 2006 that sent 5 feet of water into warehouses in Sparks, Nevada, and hazardous waste barrels floating away.
The icy weather also prompted an increase in emergency room visits from falls. In Mississippi, a family spokesman said 93-year-old former Gov. William Winter was expected to recover, but remained in serious condition after suffering a concussion when he fell on the steep, icy driveway of his Jackson home.
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