UPDATE: More flights canceled as storm hits East Coast

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — 4:10 p.m.

Airlines have already canceled 500 U.S. flights on Wednesday because of a winter storm socking the Southeast, and many more will be scuttled Thursday as the brunt of the winter weather is expected to hit the Northeast.

Tracking service FlightAware.com says more than 1,700 flights have been canceled Thursday. More than half the flights scheduled for Thursday at Boston Logan International Airport had been scrubbed, and so had nearly half the flights at New York's LaGuardia Airport. Two other New York-area airports, JFK and Newark, were also hit hard along with smaller airports in the Northeast.

JetBlue has a major operation in Boston. It canceled about 400 flights through Thursday along the East Coast.

Most airlines were letting customers change reservations without incurring a fee, usually up to $200 on U.S. flights.
2:15 p.m.

The National Weather Service says a winter storm developing the U.S. Southeast coast will probably intensify so rapidly that it will qualify as a "bomb cyclone."

The "bomb cyclone" should dump 8 inches (20 centimeters) to a foot (0.3 meter) of snow on the Boston area Thursday and at least half a foot of snow in the New York City region.

Still, meteorologists say most of the storm's fierce hurricane-force winds should stay out to sea until it nears Cape Cod, Maine and Canada. Weather Prediction Center lead forecaster Bob Oravec says the fast-moving system can bring 70 mph (113 kph) wind gusts to coastal New England.

Meteorologists say perhaps the worst effects could be bitter subzero cold — chillier than the frigid past couple weeks.

The weather service has issued blizzard warnings for the coast from parts of Rhode Island to Maine, but Oravec expects the blizzard warnings could be extended as far south as parts of New York.


1:30 p.m.

An American Airlines spokesman says the airline plans to cancel all flights scheduled for Thursday at Boston Logan International Airport because of the forecast calling for snow and high winds.

Spokesman Ross Feinstein says the airline will try to avoid leaving planes at Logan overnight Wednesday for fear they would be stranded there.

Feinstein says American also expects to reduce operations at Bradley International Airport in in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, and to reduce flights of smaller American Eagle and shuttle flights at New York's LaGuardia Airport.

American does not expect as much disruption to its operations in Washington or Philadelphia on Thursday.


Alabama schools are changing operating hours and dress codes because of the frigid weather.

More than 10 city and county school systems in north Alabama say they are delaying the beginning of classes on Thursday and Friday because of the morning chill. The weather service says wind chill values could drop to minus 5 degrees (minus 20 Celsius) in the state's northeastern corner.

Along the coast in south Alabama, the Mobile and Baldwin county school systems say they're altering their normal dress codes because of the weather. Officials say students will be allowed to wear the warmest clothing possible rather than the uniforms which are normally required.

Forecasters say the combination of low temperatures and brisk winds will make the temperature feel like it's in the teens on the coast.


12:55 p.m.

The number of deaths linked to the relentless cold across much of the United States has risen to at least 16.

Two homeless men were found dead in Houston, police there announced Wednesday. Chief Art Acevedo said the deaths were believed to be the result of "exposure to frigid weather" but the investigation was ongoing.

In Mississippi, 45-year-old Kerry Merritt of Plantersville died Tuesday morning at a Tupelo hospital after being found unresponsive on her porch.

In Michigan, a 96-year-old woman died after apparently wandering away from her suburban Detroit home and being overcome by the cold.

The Texas, Mississippi and Michigan deaths come on top of at least a dozen others reported earlier.



Authorities say a 96-year-old woman has died after apparently wandering away from her suburban Detroit home and being overcome by the cold.

The Roseville Police Department says the woman's body was found Tuesday on the playground of Dort Elementary School, near her home. She was dressed in a nightgown, robe and slippers.

Police say she lived alone and had recently been diagnosed with dementia.

Police say the death has been ruled accidental by the Macomb County Medical Examiner's Office due to exposure.

The death is among more than a dozen as brutal winter weather grips parts of the U.S.


11:30 a.m.

The snow and ice moving into South Carolina has prompted officials to close Charleston International Airport.

The airport said in a twitter message that Joint Base Charleston has closed the runways because of ice. The airport shares runways with the U.S. Air Force at the North Charleston facility.

The airport said flight operations would not resume until the Air Force determines the runways are safe for aircraft and passengers.

Snow and ice is expected over the eastern half of South Carolina on Wednesday as a storm moves up the East Coast.


It snowed briefly in Tallahassee, Florida, the first time in 28 years.

The snow brought a childlike joy and wonder and loud vocal whoops from longtime residents who rarely see the white stuff.

Sharon Rosenberg is a 35-year-old physical therapist who has lived in the state capital her entire life. Rosenberg and her two young children and husband bundled up and went outside early in the morning hoping to catch a glimpse of the snow falling.

She says she didn't think it was going to happen, and then "literally two seconds later it started snowing."

She and her children caught snowflakes on their tongues and made small snowballs.


10:45 a.m.

Authorities in Indiana say a man who stowed away on an Ohio River barge was rescued after nearly freezing to death in frigid weather.

New Albany Fire Chief Matt Juliot tells The News and Tribune that the coal barge's crew called 911 early Tuesday after finding the man hiding inside the vessel's hold.

The department says the man, who's reportedly homeless, was rescued on the department's fire boat with the assistance of the Louisville Fire Department and the U.S. Coast Guard and treated for "extreme cold exposure."

The temperature was 0 degrees (-17 Celsius) with subzero wind chills at the time of the rescue.

Juliot says cold-weather rescues are rare for New Albany's fire department because it normally doesn't get so cold in the city in southern Indiana.


10:10 a.m.

As a winter storm pushes cold temperatures deep into Florida, farmers across the state are on alert.

Citrus trees survive until temperatures fall to 28 degrees or less for at least three hours. So far, forecasts don't show that happening in the Florida citrus-growing belt from Interstate 4 near Orlando and to the south.

Both citrus and strawberry growers protect their crops by running irrigation systems once the temperature dips toward 32 degrees. The freezing water creates ice, which releases heat that protects the fruit.

Strawberry growers typically run irrigation systems to "ice" the fruit at least once per season. There are about 8,000 acres of strawberry farms in the state, which is the second largest strawberry producing region in the U.S., according to the Florida Strawberry Growers Association. Most of the berries are grown just east of downtown Tampa.


9:50 a.m.

An airport serving much of the Georgia and South Carolina coasts has closed.

The Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport announced in a statement about 9:30 a.m. Wednesday that it had closed as ice and snow fell on the Georgia coast.

The National Weather Service said a wintry mix of snow and freezing rain was expected Wednesday mostly along the Southeast's Atlantic coast as a winter storm begins its march to the northeast.


9:25 a.m.

Icy rain fell in Savannah on Wednesday morning as rush-hour traffic was far lighter than normal.

Those who did brave the frigid commute found police had closed many bridges, overpasses and elevated roadways that had become treacherous with ice.

Nick McCready said "there are accidents all over."

McCready had just made his 25-mile commute from Savannah to Bluffton, South Carolina, before dawn Wednesday, only to go back home after 30 minutes at the office. "On my way back, I slid a little bit on a couple of bridges."

He stopped at an open grocery store on his way home.

McCreadie said "I'm going to get a little bit of firewood just in case." He has an outdoor fire pit.


9:20 a.m.

The National Weather Service says snowfall is ending in Tallahassee and is heading east, across Interstate 10 and toward Jacksonville on Florida's Atlantic coast.

In a tweet, the National Weather Service in Tallahassee said points to the east are getting "steady freezing rain, sleet and snow." Officials also warn that dangerous driving conditions persist across the area.

Officials said about 0.1 inch (0.25 centimeter) of snow was reported on the roof of weather service office in Tallahassee.

Schools have closed in several northern Florida districts, while students across much of the area remain out on winter break.

In Jacksonville, the mayor told non-essential city employees to stay home on Wednesday.


8:30 a.m.

Snow flurries are falling as far south as Tallahassee, Florida, where officials were forced to close a section of Interstate 10 due to icy conditions.

The National Weather Service predicted snow flurries across a swath of northern Florida, from Tallahassee to Jacksonville, on Wednesday morning. Accumulations were not expected.

On its Twitter account, The Tallahassee Police Department warned motorists that ice could form on bridges early Wednesday.

The weather service in Tallahassee tweeted that there's one-tenth of an inch (0.25 centimeter) of snow on the roof of the building.

Schools in at least five districts canceled classes on Wednesday as well. In Tallahassee, students were supposed to return from winter break, but got another day thanks to the weather. Also in the Orlando area, theme parks closed water attractions due to cold weather.


6:45 a.m.

Law enforcement agencies are reporting freezing rain and ice on bridges in south Georgia as a winter storm revs up along the East Coast.

Police in the south Georgia city of Brunswick reported on their official Twitter account Wednesday morning that some area bridges had begun to ice up. Brunswick police added that there have already been crashes and they are advising motorists to stay off the roads.

The winter storm is threatening to dump snow and ice on parts of the U.S. South that rarely see frozen flurries, much less accumulation.

The National Weather Service said a wintry mix of snow and freezing rain was expected Wednesday mostly along the Southeast's Atlantic coast. Up to an inch (2.5 centimeters) of snow could fall in Tallahassee, Florida, while 3 to 5 inches (8 to 13 centimeters) are possible in parts of North Carolina.


6:30 a.m.

Weather warnings forced some school districts in Florida's northern counties to close just as students were set to return after a winter break. A massive front is bringing some of the coldest temperatures in years to parts of Florida.

In central Florida, the state's largest theme parks announced that water attractions such as Disney's Typhoon Lagoon, Universal Orlando's Volcano Bay and SeaWorld's Aquatica were closed Wednesday because of the cold snap.

The temperature early Wednesday in Orlando was 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 Celsius) and it was raining.

The mayor of Jacksonville in north Florida closed city offices to all but essential personnel on Wednesday, advising people to stay off the roads. In Tallahassee, school officials announced that classes would remain closed Wednesday.


5:45 a.m.

The North Carolina Zoo is offering half-priced admission while a bitter cold wave sweeps the South, giving visitors a chance to see polar bears frolic in their kind of weather.

Zoo visitors, however, shouldn't expect to see any lions, elephants or gorillas native to Africa on view. With the mercury dipping below freezing, animals more suited to warmer climes will remain in their behind-the-scenes quarters.

Local news outlets report the zoo in Asheboro is offering the special discount rates through Saturday.

Besides polar bears, Arctic foxes, elk and other cold-tolerant animals will be on display. And for humans wary of venturing outdoors in dangerously low temperatures, the zoo is promising heated habitat complexes and transportation to stay warm.


3 a.m.

A brutal winter storm scattered a wintry mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain from normally balmy north Florida up the Southeast seaboard Wednesday, adding to the misery of a bitter cold snap as bridges iced over and cars spun out on slickened overpasses.

Only a few motorists ventured out in freezing rain that coated bridges and ramps with ice, forcing police to close roads and highways in the historic Georgia coastal city of Savannah. Some cars spun out into guardrails and ice from rain and freezing rain coated the windshields of cars. Police urged drivers to stay off the roads in a region little accustomed to the kind of winter woes common to the Northeast.

Ahead of the storm, dump trucks spread sand on bridges and major streets, and Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach warned residents to stay home. Many heeded the mayor's warnings Wednesday, with few drivers out and schools, many businesses and even City Hall closed for the storm.

"The streets will be slick," DeLoach had said in advising Southerners to batten down. "We could have some serious issues for folks who aren't used to driving in this kind of weather."

The coastal city that hasn't seen measurable snowfall since February 2010 was expecting up to 2 inches (5 centimeters) of snow and sleet in the forecast Wednesday.

As the storm settled in, patrol cars with flashing lights blocked elevated ramps, closing off routes slickened by the storm. Porch steps leading up to many of Savannah's elegant Southern homes were frozen over and at least one major causeway was already closed, along with several bridges.

The National Weather Service said the snow and freezing rain was expected to spread up the coast to the Carolinas, amid warnings that icy roads and low visibility could make driving treacherous. Accumulations of 3 to 5 inches (8 to 13 centimeters) were possible in eastern North Carolina.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency through Friday for 28 counties because of the frigid weather.

The weather service said up to an inch (2.5 centimeters) of snow could fall as far south as Tallahassee, Florida. In fact, snow began falling in Tallahassee early Wednesday — a rare occurrence in the north Florida city.

In central Florida, the state's largest theme parks announced that water attractions such as Disney's Typhoon Lagoon, Universal Orlando's Volcano Bay and SeaWorld's Aquatica were closed Wednesday because of the cold snap.

In Brunswick, Georgia, on the Atlantic coast, law enforcement agencies reported freezing rain and ice on bridges early Wednesday. The icy conditions also were hampering early morning travel in Florida, as authorities were forced to shut a stretch of Interstate 10 east of Tallahassee.

In other parts of the U.S., dangerously cold temperatures have been blamed for at least a dozen deaths as well as freezing a water tower in Iowa and halting ferry service in New York.

The National Weather Service issued wind chill advisories and freeze warnings Tuesday covering a vast area from South Texas to Canada and from Montana through New England.

Indianapolis early Tuesday tied a record low of minus 12 degrees Fahrenheit (-24 Celsius) for Jan. 2 set in 1887, leading Indianapolis Public Schools to cancel classes. And the northwest Indiana city of Lafayette got down to minus 19 (-28 Celsius), shattering the previous record of minus 5 (-21 Celsius) for the date, set in 1979, the National Weather Service said. After residents there began complaining of a hum, Duke Energy said it was caused by extra power surging through utility lines to meet electricity demands.

"The temperatures are certainly extreme, but we've seen colder," said Joseph Nield, a meteorologist in Indianapolis, noting that the all-time low temperature in Indiana was minus 36 (-38 Celsius) in 1994.

Nevertheless, the cold is nothing to trifle with, forecasters warned.

With Chicago-area wind chills expected between -35 and -20 degrees (-37 and -29 Celsius), forecasters warned of frost bite and hypothermia risks and urged residents to take precautions, including dressing in layers, wearing a hat and gloves, covering exposed skin and bringing pets indoors.

Atlanta hospitals were seeing a surge in emergency room visits for hypothermia and other ailments as temperatures plunge well below freezing. The temperature in Atlanta fell to 13 degrees (-11 Celsius) before dawn on Tuesday.

"We have a group of patients who are coming in off the street who are looking to escape the cold — we have dozens and dozens of those every day," said Dr. Brooks Moore, associate medical director in the emergency department of Grady Health System, which operates Georgia's largest hospital in Atlanta.

Warming shelters were opened across the South as freeze watches and warnings blanketed the region, including hard freeze warnings for much of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Plunging temperatures in Texas brought rare snow flurries as far south as Austin, and accidents racked up on icy roads across the state. In the central Texas city of Abilene, the local police chief said more than three dozen vehicle crashes were reported in 24 hours.

Making the most of the South's bitter cold snap, the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro offered discounted tickets for those willing to brave the cold to see polar bears frolic in their kind of weather, along with Arctic foxes and elk. Nonetheless, African elephants, lions and gorillas were being sheltered out of public view because of the dangerously low temperatures.


Associated Press reporters Tammy Webber in Indianapolis; Jeff Martin in Atlanta; Freida Frisaro in Miami; Gary Fineout in Tallahassee, Florida, and Stephen Morton in Savannah contributed to this story.

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