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Cold Weather Brings Southern US to Standstill

A group of adults and children enjoy an afternoon of sledding and snowboarding on a hill on the campus of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., Jan. 17, 2018.

Frigid temperatures brought parts of the southern United States to a standstill Wednesday as airports, highways, schools and government offices closed across areas of the country ill-equipped to deal with wintry weather.

At least 10 people died, including a baby in a car that plunged off an icy overpass into a canal in Louisiana.

The usually balmy region was blanketed by snow and ice, sending cars careening off the roads, including those of experienced drivers.

Ice covers a street as a car struggles to climb a hill in Atlanta, Jan. 17, 2018.
Ice covers a street as a car struggles to climb a hill in Atlanta, Jan. 17, 2018.

Retired NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. tweeted that after he had used his winch to help pull a car out of a ditch, he drove off a road and into a tree in North Carolina.

“NC stay off the roads today/tonight. 5 minutes after helping these folks I center punched a pine tree,'' he tweeted. A spokesman said Earnhardt was not hurt.

More than 800 flights across the U.S. were canceled early Wednesday, according to the flight tracking website Flight Aware. Another 60 flights were delayed. Slippery runways and the de-icing of planes forced cancellations and delays in New Orleans; Memphis, Tennessee; and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.

Louisiana was placed under a state of emergency as temperatures dipped to minus 6 Celsius before dawn in New Orleans, breaking the city's record of minus 5 Celsius, set on the same date in 1977. Ice forced the closure of all highways around the capital, Baton Rouge.

Thousands of schoolchildren and teachers got the day off. Many cities canceled meetings and court proceedings, and some businesses closed.

Snow fell in a wide band that stretched from southeastern Texas all the way to western Massachusetts. More than 10 centimeters (4 inches) fell from North Carolina into Virginia.

Weather forecasters called for a return of milder temperatures by the weekend.