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Rare snow forecast for southern US states amid deep freeze

Brutal winter weather which brought sub-zero temperatures to the US is threatening to dump snow and ice across parts of the South which rarely see any snowfall.

The National Weather Service said a mix of snow and freezing rain is expected mainly along the Atlantic seaboard from Florida to North Carolina.

It warned that icy roads and low visibility could make driving treacherous across the region.

In Savannah, a coastal city which has not seen measurable snowfall since February 2010, up to 2in of snow and sleet was forecast.

As city officials filled trucks with grit to spread on major streets, mayor Eddie DeLoach urged residents to stay at home and keep off the roads.

"The streets will be slick," Mr DeLoach told a news conference.

"We could have some serious issues for folks who aren't used to driving in this kind of weather."

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

The weather service said up to an inch of snow could fall as far south as Tallahassee, Florida. Accumulation of 3-5in is possible in eastern North Carolina.

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

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

Indianapolis tied a record low of minus 24C for January 2 originally set in 1887, leading Indianapolis schools to cancel classes.

The north-west Indiana city of Lafayette got down to minus 28C, shattering the previous record of minus 21C for the date, set in 1979, the National Weather Service said.

With Chicago-area wind chills expected between minus 37 and minus 29C, forecasters warned of frostbite 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 are also seeing a surge in emergency room visits for hypothermia and other ailments as temperatures plunge well below freezing. The temperature in Atlanta fell to minus 11C before dawn on Tuesday.

Shelters were opened across the South as weather warnings were issued for the region, including 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.

In New York, transportation officials suspended the Newburgh-Beacon commuter ferry service because of icy conditions on the Hudson River. Just north, the city of Poughkeepsie saw a record-breaking low of minus 12C on New Year's Day.

In Savannah, where January's average high is 16C, the temperature hovered at minus 1C at noon on Tuesday - cold enough for icicles to dangle from the ornate wrought-iron fountain in Forsyth Park at the edge of the city's historic district.

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