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Water in a fountain in Charlotte froze solid earlier this week, as temperatures dropped to 8 degrees ahead of a major winter storm that would paralyze much of the southeasterrn Sun Belt. / Carl Pileggi, Your Take

ATLANTA â?? They were salting down bridges and overpasses Monday and pre-emptively closing schools and governments as the Deep South prepared for a rare winter storm.

Snow and ice were predicted Tuesday into Wednesday for places that rarely see it.

"We're getting ready for some snow â?? there may be a few snowmen in our future," said Columbus (Ga.) Mayor Teresa Tomlinson. "We've loaded up the truck with barricades in case we have to close roads, loaded up the trucks with sand and sharpened the chain saws. We've just got everything sitting on ready."

She said officials in the city of 198,000 will wait until around noon Tuesday to reassess the situation. If the storm is as bad as predicted, the city will close except for essential services and cancel Tuesday night's City Council meeting.

Several years ago, when a winter storm dumped snow on parts of the state, some parents from Columbus, 108 miles south of Atlanta, drove their elementary school-aged children 45 miles or so north to LaGrange to see snow for the first time. They won't have to drive this year â?? maybe.

"The South is notorious for predicting these incredible winter storms that never seem to come our way," Tomlinson said.

Officials next door in Phenix City, Ala., weren't waiting: They announced Monday that Russell County Schools will close at 11:45 a.m. Tuesday for elementary students and at noon for middle- and high-schoolers. Superintendent Mike Green said schools will be closed Wednesday and re-open at 10 a.m. Thursday.

In South Carolina, crews from the state Department of Transportation were pre-treating bridges and overpasses on interstates and major thoroughfares, said DOT spokesman Pete Poore. "One good thing that's going for us that might not have been the cases in some of those other (cold-weather) places is we've had a few days of sunny, 60-degree weather, which has warmed up the roads. That helps, to some degree, in keeping us from freezing or helps in the melting of snow."

The South Carolina Legislature canceled its session this week. House Speaker Bobby Harrell and Senate President Pro Tem John Courson announced the cancellation of the session and all legislative meetings; the Legislature will resume its regular Tuesday-through-Thursday schedule next week, they said.

The tourism magnets of Charleston, S.C., and Savannah, Ga., were both under their first winter storm watch since Feb. 11, 2010, according to Weather Channel meteorologist Nick Wiltgen.

"Clearly, we're anticipating an event that Charleston is not used to," said Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen. He said the last ice storm three years ago plagued the city for a couple of days. "The ice, during the day would melt, then it would re-freeze at night."

The city has only a couple of sand trucks but is working closely with the state DOT to deploy crews as needed, Mullen said.

Charleston County schools and city schools will both close early Tuesday, Mullen said.

The biggest concern for the city is "significant and extended power outages," emergency manager Mark Wilbert said.

Contributing: Doyle Rice



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Deep South bracing for rare snow and ice storm

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