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AN UNARMED SOUTHEAST COPES WITH BIG ASSAULT BY SNOW

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Everywhere else, anyway.

For once, news of massive snowfalls, downed power lines and stranded travelers did not come with a Buffalo dateline.

From Birmingham to Bangor, folks along the Eastern seaboard were buried this week under upwards of a foot of snow.

Buffalo, the place with the national reputation for lots of the stuff, merely got a few flakes in what has been a remarkably snow-light winter.

Many of the snowed-upon are former New Yorkers who left for milder climates and hotter job markets.

By Wednesday, 20 inches of snow had fallen in Maryland, 17 inches in Virginia, 15 inches near Washington and a foot in Massachusetts. Farther south, four months after floods ravaged parts of North Carolina, the Carolinas were paralyzed by a rare blizzard, and Georgia was reeling from a weekend ice storm that caused damage estimated at $35 million.

More bad weather may be on the way. Forecasters said the Southeast probably will be cold and wet this weekend as a storm system arrives from the Plains. The storm, expected to dump as much as 10 inches of snow on Oklahoma by tonight, brought sleet and slick conditions today to gulf coast states.

The weather has forced Southerners to make some major lifestyle changes.

Denise Alfano of Raleigh, N.C., finally found a use for her Abdominizer, a concave plastic stomach-exercise aid.

With 2 feet of snow outside, and no snow shovel to the family's name, Alfano unearthed the blue tummy-trimmer from the depths of a closet.

"I cleared part of the walk with it, until (my husband) got the garden shovel out of the garage," said Alfano, who moved to Carolina from Long Island two years ago. "The people next door used a credit card to scrape off their (car) windshield."

Ace Hardware in Raleigh doesn't carry snowblowers and sold out of its stock of two dozen metal shovels in hours.

"People are buying fertilizer to use as ice melt," said Mark Dimoff, store manager. "Now we're getting the cabin-fever folks who walk in just to say hello."

Lacking snow boots, some folks are wearing hiking boots or Doc Martens. "I'm wearing a pair of sneakers," Dimoff said. "My feet are about frozen."

Handling snow is second nature on the Niagara Frontier, but 4 inches of snow closed schools in Raleigh for three days last week. This week, schools let out early Monday on reports of coming snow and were closed Tuesday, Wednesday and today.

"Everything shuts down here with 4 inches of snow," Dimoff said. "People have no idea what to do with this much."

While all roads are clear in Buffalo, the latest winter sport in Raleigh is hitching water skis to the back of a sport utility vehicle, which is more fun than shoveling.

"Nobody has snowblowers down here," said James Alfano, a transplanted Long Islander. "And there are no kids who come around to help you shovel."

Snow emergency plans remained in effect today in Baltimore and several Maryland counties where up to 20 inches accumulated. As in North Carolina, many schools remained closed for a third day.

In Washington, 250,000 federal employees were given another day off Wednesday.

States of emergency were declared in parts of Georgia, North Carolina and Maryland, with the National Guard called in to help clear roads.

Baltimore residents had to improvise.

"My neighbor dug out her car with a chrome mixing bowl," said Nancy Prusakowski, who moved to Baltimore from Buffalo 18 years ago. "The (emergency vehicle) sirens have been going all day and night."

Baltimore's Lee McCaffrey paid snow-shoveling entrepreneurs $135 to clear her walk and driveway.

"I have a bad back," said McCaffrey. "I figured I'd pay at least that much in physical therapy if I tried to do it."

The storm's arrival with little warning did not help.

"We're really cursing those computer models," said Andrew Woodcock, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va.

Mac Jones, streets superintendent in Raleigh, credited Western New York with helping with the biggest storm to hit since 1902. In addition to Raleigh's fleet of 32 trucks with attachable plows and salt spreaders, Jones contracts with private plowers in the area.

"That's a tip I picked up at a North American Snow Conference in Rochester about 10 years ago," said Jones, who apologized for "stealing" Buffalo's snow.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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