COLUMBIA, S.C. -- A jolt of freezing rain and ice across Georgia and the Carolinas yesterday closed schools, snarled traffic, and caused power outages for hundreds of thousands of customers. At least one death was blamed on the storm when an ice-laden tree crashed through a man's house.
Ice-coated tree limbs downed power lines, leaving 160,000 without electricity in South Carolina's upstate area, 102,000 in northeast Georgia, 57,000 in the Atlanta area, and 40,000 in western and central North Carolina.
''The trees and power lines are down everywhere on the road. It's just dangerous to be out," said Rebecca Neal, who used blankets to keep warm in her unheated Greenville home and thinking about finding a hotel for the night.
Earlier in the day, Neal had gone to her job at a public relations firm, only to find that her office didn't have power either.
School systems from northern Georgia to western stretches of Virginia canceled or cut short classes.
The National Weather Service said the freezing rain was expected to continue last night, with overnight temperatures dipping into the 20s. More power lines and tree limbs could snap under thickening ice layers.
Mountains of North Carolina and Virginia were being hit with a mix of snow and sleet, with accumulations from 1 to 3 inches expected overnight.
''Snow we can plow. Ice we can't," said Chuck Lionberger, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Transportation.
The wintry mix caused a school bus accident in Cherokee County, in suburban Atlanta, when the driver swerved to avoid a branch that had fallen across the road and slid off the road. None of the 23 students aboard the bus was injured.
A spokeswoman for Duke Power, the main supplier of electricity in the hard-hit stretches of the Carolinas, said crews were working to restore power, but added that it could be a long process.