ATLANTA — Ice and snow turned travel treacherous across the South, shutting down interstates in Louisiana, causing highway crashes in Kentucky and closing airport runways in Texas as snow turned the red clay white and prompted schools to close across the region.
Snow began falling during the pre-dawn hours Tuesday in Louisiana, where freeways were closed in and around Baton Rouge as the winter weather system took aim at other states, forecasters said.
With the weather system moving east and plunging temperatures expected right behind it, winter storm warnings were issued for parts of Louisiana and Mississippi.
Dangerous wind chills prompted school systems to close Tuesday across Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Kansas and Missouri. Some colleges also canceled classes, including Wichita State University in Kansas, where wind chill values were expected to drop as low as minus-13 degrees, The National Weather Service said.
In Kentucky, multiple crashes closed a 10-mile section of Interstate 24 on the west side of the state and blocked southbound lanes of Interstate 65 in south-central Kentucky, including a five-vehicle pileup that involved a Greyhound bus, authorities said. That crash, which injured multiple people, also involved two commercial vehicles and two passenger vehicles Tuesday morning on I-65.
In Tennessee, forecasters called for up to 6 inches of snow in the central part of the state, which includes the Nashville area.
Hundreds of flights were canceled at Texas airports — including Houston, San Antonio and Austin — where frigid temperatures left runways dangerously icy. Forecasters warned mariners along the Texas coast to be on guard for gale-force winds.
Snow was falling Tuesday morning in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, and was expected to move into Alabama and Georgia later in the day.
In Louisiana, state officials said both lanes of Interstate 49 in the Shreveport area were closed early Tuesday. Parts of Interstate 20 and Interstate 220 were also closed.
“We've got numerous crashes on the interstates and surface roads,” Louisiana State Trooper Glenn Younger said Tuesday morning from Bossier City, Louisiana, just across the Red River from Shreveport.
“You can't see the black ice — it's invisible,” said Younger, who had been driving on roads since 5 a.m. Tuesday and could feel the back end of his patrol car begin to slide at times.
“You want to just barely touch the brakes in that situation,” he said. “A lot of people get scared and they want to jam on the brakes and that makes it worse.”
What looked like about 1 inch of snow covered the hood of Glenn Springfield's truck when he went outside early Tuesday morning in northeast Louisiana, he said. Springfield, a spokesman for the Ouachita Parish Sheriff's Office, said the worst highway conditions were about 100 miles west of him — but the snow was heading east.
“We're just advising people that if you don't have to work, stay home,” Springfield said.
Ice had coated roads and bridges in 36 of Mississippi's 82 counties, mostly in the northern and central parts of the state, the Mississippi Department of Transportation said in a statement Tuesday morning. Some of the heaviest snow in Mississippi was expected in the state's Delta region, where up to 3 inches was possible.