DURHAM, N.C. — The deep freeze that shut down much of the South began to relent Thursday as crews salted and cleared roads after a slow-moving storm left ice and snow in places that usually enjoy mild winters. At least 15 people died in accidents and frigid weather.
Even after the storm blew off shore, North Carolina officials urged drivers to stay home while crews worked on roads made unsafe by the storm. Other parts of the South continued to struggle, including Louisiana, where interstate highways remained closed in the capital of Baton Rouge and New Orleans residents were told to stop using water after so many pipes froze and broke that systems lost pressure.
Even low hills in unplowed residential neighborhoods proved too much for drivers in North Carolina’s Durham County, where the storm dumped up to 12 inches of snow on Wednesday. A dark-colored sedan sat abandoned in the middle of the road in one neighborhood Thursday. A few people shoveled driveways but most stayed bundled inside.
"This is an extraordinary event to have this much snow all across the state. We aren’t used to that. We’re working as hard as we can," said North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper.
Mark Foley, 24, wore a hat and jacket as he worked to start his pickup truck covered in a half-foot of snow in a Durham driveway. After a few minutes in the 15-degree air, he was able to go pick up an in-home health aide for his disabled father.
"My lock was frozen, so I couldn’t even unlock the door. So I had to use some warm water," he said holding an empty pitcher. "It’s more snow than we thought we were going to get."
Two-thousand state trucks were out plowing and salting in North Carolina a day after the storm dumped as much as an inch per hour from the mountains to the coast. Some stretches of interstate highway were still covered in icy spots or only partially plowed.
Cooper said North Carolina has the second-most state-maintained roads behind Texas, and asked the public to help by staying home.
"I know we all get stir crazy and cabin fever. But staying off the roads right now is important for us," the governor said.
Cooper also reported the state’s first weather fatality, after a minivan slid off an icy road and overturned in a canal in Washington County early Thursday.
Officials at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world’s busiest, were hoping to reduce lines to get through security that stretched through the airport on Wednesday.
On Thursday, airlines canceled another 200 flights at the Atlanta airport, and dozens of other flights at Charlotte Douglas International.
At least four people died in Louisiana, including a man knocked off an elevated portion of Interstate 10 in New Orleans when a pickup spun out on ice, and an 8-month-old baby who was pulled unconscious with his mother from their car after it slid off an icy overpass and landed in a canal in suburban New Orleans.
Two others died along an icy stretch of I-75 southeast of Atlanta. One was inside their car and another standing beside it on the shoulder when another driver lost control and hit them, killing both, authorities said.
A college student died on icy I-64, hitting a tractor-trailer in West Virginia.
Most of the deaths were in traffic accidents, but others died quietly, after authorities said they likely succumbed to exposure to temperatures as low as 10 degrees.