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Tennessee declares state of emergency over ice storm

By Tim Ghianni

NASHVILLE (Reuters) - Tennessee officials declared a state of emergency on Tuesday as ice storms hit a swathe of territory in the mid-south of the United States and concerns grew about flooding and dangerous road conditions.

Freezing rain across the region from about mid-morning on Tuesday had caused ice accumulation of up to half an inch (12.7 mm) in Arkansas just southwest of Memphis, according to the National Weather Service.

As much as a quarter inch to half inch of ice could coat roadways and power lines across Tennessee, according to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, leading to the state of emergency.

"When you start putting that much ice on roadways and power lines, it's not going to be good," said Jeremy Heidt, a spokesman for the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.

The most treacherous spots from accumulated ice were on bridges and overpasses, said Corey Chaskelson, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Nashville.

Tennessee transportation officials have ordered all workers to stay on duty through the night because of the forecasts for icing, which would include 1,200 people and 250 trucks. The rain in eastern Tennessee is leading to flooding issues, Heidt said.

"We are not letting any crews go home," said Beth Emmons, Tennessee Transportation Department spokeswoman. "All the trucks are loaded and they'll start laying the salt as needed."

Memphis Police spokeswoman Alyssa Moore said the city began to see rain, sleet and freezing rain just as the evening rush hour was starting.

"The roads are beginning to get really slick," Moore said.

(Editing by David Bailey, Cynthia Johnston and Lisa Shumaker)