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Eight die in South in winter road accidents

By Peggy Gargis

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (Reuters) - Eight people died in accidents caused by a rare blast of sleet, rain and snow that swept through southern U.S. states, making roads treacherous, authorities said on Friday.

Four were killed in traffic accidents linked to icy roads in Alabama, including two people killed in one car caught in a head-on collision on Thursday, said State Trooper spokesman Steve Smith.

The troopers themselves lost a patrol car when an 18-wheel truck lost control and slammed into it, though nobody was hurt, he said.

Another wreck killed the driver of a truck on an interstate near Birmingham, the state's largest city, while a fourth person died on Friday morning in southwest Alabama after a wreck caused by ice.

The Gulf coast usually escapes the brutal weather that regularly swipes the North and Northeast of the country during winter, but last month snow that turned to ice shut hundreds of offices and businesses in the Deep South.

It also gave tens of thousands of children an unexpected week off school.

One person died in southwest Mississippi near the small town of Prentiss. Two others were killed in separate accidents near Brookhaven, south of state capital Jackson.

In southern Louisiana, used to mild winters, freezing temperatures caused the driver of a pickup truck to crash his vehicle coming off a bridge early on Friday. Three 18-wheelers were unable to avoid the crash.

The driver of the pick-up truck died, said State Trooper Russell Graham. There were no reports of road deaths in Georgia, authorities said.

(Editing by Matthew Bigg and Jerry Norton)

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