Icy storm ties up travel, voting in East as Ohio Valley prepares to freeze again
Eds: UPDATES with polls staying open in Maryland because of poor weather, primary filing deadline extended in Pennsylvania, details from Philadelphia area, flights canceled in Chicago; EDITS to recast.
AP Photo KYER101, MOSPL101, PX102, OHJL102
By BRETT BARROUQUERE
Associated Press Writer
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Winter's latest treachery slid over the East Coast on Tuesday, tying up travel and snarling primary-day voting, as Ohio Valley residents began emerging from ice-induced hiding.
Freezing rain in Kentucky laid ice on top of 4 inches of snow that melted as temperatures moderated in the afternoon, but roads and bridges were expected to ice up again overnight.
"All that slush and stuff on the roads is going to refreeze," said Andrea Lammers, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Louisville.
Winter storm warnings were posted from western Tennessee into New England as the storm slid to the north and east. Maryland extended its polling hours by 90 minutes in Tuesday's primary because the weather created gridlock in areas, preventing people from voting.
In Pennsylvania, Gov. Ed Rendell extended Tuesday's deadline for political candidates to qualify for the state's April 22 primary until noon Thursday, citing weather concerns.
Snow caused problems in the Philadelphia area during the evening rush hour, with many traffic accidents closing roads. Ice on the Delaware River bridge linking Chester, Pa., and Bridgeport, N.J., closed the span around 5 p.m. for salting.
A highway in western Kentucky was closed after ice-laden trees fell from a bluff and damaged passing cars, transportation officials said. Louisville police reported more than 250 vehicles abandoned in Jefferson County.
Thousands of homes and businesses lost power at some point throughout the region.
Schools were closed Tuesday in parts of Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Classes at Southern Illinois University were canceled by the weather for the first time since the 1980s.
A roof at a bread-making company in Herrin, Ill., collapsed, but no one was injured.
Two people died in Kentucky after their car slid off an icy highway. At least two traffic deaths, along with dozens of injuries, were reported in Missouri.
The Weather Service also issued flood warnings in some parts of Kentucky. Police in the state's western tip said several roads were closed by rising water.
The system also dropped snow in the North, no stranger to such weather. More than 400 flights were canceled and all were delayed at Chicago's busy O'Hare International Airport, while in Michigan, highway officials got edgy as their supplies of road salt dwindled.
"We've got a couple hundred tons being delivered today, but it's getting pretty low," said Mark Sohlden, engineer-manager of the Gladwin County Road Commission. "The way the winter has been so far, we've pretty much exhausted a lot of our supply."
The normally busy restaurant and entertainment district in downtown Louisville was sparsely populated at midday, though Alicion Freeman made it to work for her job at a day care center.
What is usually a 20-minute drive to work took more than 90 minutes Tuesday morning, she said.
"I took the interstate, so it wasn't too bad," Freeman said. "I couldn't see the lines for the lanes, though."
But Brian Vandenburg of Louisville was having none of it. He took Tuesday off from a construction job in suburban Oldham County because the drive to work would have taken nearly three times the normal 40 minutes.
"I'm not going to die getting there," he said.
Farther to the south, winter was not the problem; wind was. Strong storms produced hail, damaging winds and possible tornadoes from Louisiana to Florida, even spawning a possible tornado near Kennedy Space Center.
Housing was damaged in Cocoa Beach, Fla., just a few south of Kennedy Space Center, where no damage was reported. Space shuttle operations were not affected.
The storms followed catastrophic weather in the South last week that produced the deadliest tornado outbreak in years. The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency on Tuesday reduced that state's death toll from the storms by one, to 31. That puts the overall toll from the storms at 56.
Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Marcus Kabel in Springfield, Mo.; Jim Irwin in Detroit; Thomas J. Sheeran in Ohio; and Jim Suhr in St. Louis.