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Cold and icy, Texas and Louisiana deal with winter

By Michael Pearson and Nick Valencia, CNN
updated 2:39 PM EST, Fri January 24, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: State of emergency declared in Louisiana because of cold and ice
  • NEW: Two dead in weather-related Louisiana traffic accidents, state police say
  • "If you don't need to be on the roads, stay off them," Houston official says
  • Many South Texas and southern Louisiana schools closed

How is winter weather affecting you? Send CNN iReport your photos and video of ice, snow and sleet if you can do so safely.

Houston (CNN) -- After pelting parts of Texas with snow and ice, a rare deep South winter storm moved into Louisiana on Friday, icing roads and causing at least two deaths.

Louisiana State Police closed I-10 at the Texas border after numerous traffic accidents blamed on ice.

The interstate closure was one of many hampering travel in the state Friday afternoon as state police warned of deteriorating conditions. They warned residents to avoid driving unless it was absolutely necessary.

State police said two people died in traffic accidents attributed to the weather. The agency's Facebook post didn't provide details about the incidents.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for southwest and south-central Louisiana through Friday evening. As much as a half-inch of ice is possible, the agency said.

Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency because of the storm.

State offices were closed in 38 parishes, according to the governor's office. Schools were closed in 37.

Earlier, the storm made trouble in Houston, a city so unaccustomed to wintry weather that it's only had three bouts with measurable snow since 1968.

One Twitter user jokingly posted: "Ice on my windshield. Anything I can do or should I just bust it out with a hammer?"

Although the winter storm warning had been lifted for the Houston area Friday afternoon, forecasters warned that bridges, overpasses and other wet spots could freeze again after dark on Friday.

'Stay off the roads'

Icy conditions remained sketchy.

"We still have ice on the roads and overpasses. A lot of roadways are closed, and nearly all of our interstates have ramp closures or lane closures because of the overpasses," said Michael Walter, a spokesman for Houston's emergency management agency, said.

"If you don't need to be on the roads, stay off them," he added.

Icy conditions also caused delays at Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport, he said. About 100 flights have been delayed.

High winds associated with the storm also forced the U.S. Coast Guard to suspend shipping through the Houston Ship Channel. While the channel remained closed Friday morning, the Coast Guard hoped to have it reopened by afternoon, Lt. Ashley Bullard said.

About 50 ships pass through the channel each day, Bullard said.

About 200 miles northwest of Houston, the U.S. Army closed sprawling Fort Hood, telling all but mission-essential personnel to take the day off.

In Madison County, north of Houston, the National Weather Service said nearly an inch of snow was on the ground. Huntsville also got about an inch of snow overnight, CNN affiliate KPRC reported.

In San Antonio, icy conditions were causing problems for commuters. About a tenth of an inch of rain fell overnight, freezing on surfaces and making many roads slippery, CNN affiliate KSAT reported.

School closings

In Texas and Louisiana, many school districts closed for what amounted to a snowless snow day for hundreds of thousands of kids.

"Yay for long weekend," Twitter user lauraface13m posted Friday morning. "What? Oh yeah ... no! No snow has actually fallen. It's just cold and rainy. Close enough."

In Austin, Texas, schools were closed amid icy conditions that caused more than 200 wrecks, CNN affiliate KVUE reported.

Indiana pileup

Winter weather caused more serious problems on Thursday in Indiana, where three people died in a 46-vehicle accident in whiteout conditions on Interstate 94, state police Sgt. Ann Wojas said Friday. Twenty-two people were injured, two critically.

The accident -- which was said to have involved 20 trucks and 26 private vehicles -- stretched for more than a mile, according to Lt. Jerry Williams, district commander for the Indiana State Police.

A fire official who responded to the crash told reporters "we're lucky there wasn't 210 people dead and three injured."

It took firefighters hours to rescue all of the victims, including two who were airlifted to nearby hospitals in critical condition.

Wojas identified the dead as Marilyn Wolma, 65 and her husband, Thomas Wolma, 67, both of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Gerry Dalrymple, 65, of Chicago.

The interstate's eastbound lanes remained closed early Friday, the Indiana Department of Transportation said.

Officials hoped to reopen the lanes Friday morning, but it will take much longer to fully understand what happened and why, Wojas said.

"This investigation will take several weeks, if not months, to complete," she said.

Officials have removed the last vehicle involved in the wreck, CNN affiliate WLS reported.

Propane shortages

Also, propane shortages across the country are causing prices to spike, pinching consumers looking to keep ahead of bitter cold winter weather in many places.

"We have double blankets on the beds, the couch, the kids' beds. I don't know what else to do," said Sandy DeHorn, who said prices for propane rose from $2.69 to $5 in one day.

"How can that happen?" she said.

Alabama's governor declared a state of emergency related to propane sales, activating the state's price-gouging law.

The law doesn't set a specific limit for prices but says anything more than 25 percent above the average price over the last month represents illegal "unconscionable pricing."

More than 12 million U.S. households use propane to keep warm, according to an industry trade group. Supplies are short because of increased demand due to the cold weather and increased usage by corn farmers last fall, who used extra propane to dry a bumper crop of corn.

States on alert as bitter cold feeds propane shortage

Michael Pearson reported and wrote from Atlanta, and Nick Valencia reported from Houston. CNN's George Howell and Marlena Baldacci and CNNMoney's Caleb Silver and Steve Hargreaves also contributed to this report.

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