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Wintry mix in Southern U.S. creates slick conditions for commuters

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (Reuters) - Commuters across the South faced dicey driving conditions on Tuesday as snow and ice blanketed roads, a wintry mix that turned highways into parking lots and caused schools to close even after buses were already pi...

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Downtown Denton, Texas is pictured from atop the Central Fire Station in this handout photo taken February 23, 2015, provided by the Denton Police Department. Commuters across the South faced dicey driving conditions on Tuesday as snow and ice blanketed roads, a wintry mix that turned some highways into parking lots and caused schools to close even after buses were already picking up students. REUTERS/Denton Police Department/Handout

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (Reuters) - Commuters across the South faced dicey driving conditions on Tuesday as snow and ice blanketed roads, a wintry mix that turned highways into parking lots and caused schools to close even after buses were already picking up students.

The storm came as a surprise in North Carolina, where weather models were slow to predict the snowfall generated by cold, moist air over much of the state, resulting in many roads being untreated ahead of the precipitation.

"There was a lot of sliding, a lot of fish-tailing," Amy Croom, a copy writer in Winston-Salem, said of her morning drive to work.

Concerned about the safety of her 19-month-old son, she ended up abandoning her SUV in a parking lot and catching a ride with her husband. "It was a little scary," she said.

In Durham, some children who had boarded buses were returned back home after school officials announced a delayed start and then complete closure for the day.

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Winter weather advisories were in effect across the region, with snow reaching as far east as the North Carolina coast. Another round of wintry precipitation was expected on Wednesday.

A 24-year-old man died in a weather-related crash in Utica, Mississippi, after losing control of his vehicle and slamming into a tractor-trailer, local officials said.

Mississippi counties reported significant icing on bridges and overpasses in the north and central part of the state, and wrecks on two interstate highways in the Jackson area caused major traffic backups, officials said.

Crews in northern Georgia and the Atlanta area worked overnight to treat roads ahead of the snow, sleet and rain that hit the area on Tuesday, said Natalie Dale, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Atlanta roads did not prove too troublesome for drivers as the wintry mix turned to rain, Dale said.

But she said in northern Georgia traffic accidents were causing slowdowns "because we have slush kicking up on the roads there."

"Some drivers seem to be overconfident when they should be taking it slow," Dale said.

Freezing rain and several more inches of snow are predicted for parts of the South on Wednesday and Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.

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The latest winter storm follows an ice storm that battered parts of Texas on Monday, cutting off power to thousands of homes and resulting in hundreds of traffic accidents and more than 1,500 airline flight cancellations.

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By Colleen Jenkins

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