Messy Storm Makes Its Way Across The South
ATLANTA -- Across the South, winter-weary residents woke up Wednesday to a region encased in ice, snow and freezing rain, with forecasters warning that the worst of the potentially "catastrophic" storm is yet to come.
From Texas to the Carolinas and the South’s business hub in Atlanta, roads were slick with ice, tens of thousands were without power, and a wintry mix fell in many areas. The Mid-Atlantic region also was expected to be hit as the storm crawled east.
Officials and forecasters in several states used unusually dire language in warnings, and they agreed that the biggest concern is ice, which could knock out power for days in wide swaths. Winds, with gusts up to 30 mph in parts of Georgia, promised to exacerbate problems.
In Atlanta, where a storm took the metro region by surprise and stranded thousands in vehicles just two weeks ago, emergency workers stood at the ready. Out-of-state utility vehicles gathered in a parking lot near one of the grandstands at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Georgia National Guard troops were on standby in case evacuations were needed at hospitals or nursing homes, and more than 70 shelters were set to open. Tens of thousands of customers were reported without power across the state.
City roads and interstates were largely desolate Wednesday morning, showing few vehicle tracks as most people heeded warnings to stay home. Stinging drops of rain fell, punctuated by strong wind gusts, and a layer of ice crusted car windshields. Slushy sidewalks made even short walking trips treacherous. One emergency crew had to pull over to wait out the falling snow before slowly making its way back to the Georgia Emergency Management Agency’s special operations center.
In normally busy downtown areas, almost every business was closed, except for a CVS pharmacy.
Amy Cuzzort, 32, was out walking her dog. She teaches in Atlanta, but school was canceled. Cuzzort, who spent six hours in her car during the traffic standstill of January’s storm, said she’d spend this one at home, "doing chores, watching movies - creepy movies, `The Shining.’"
In Decatur, just outside Atlanta, Georgia State University student Matt Stanhope, 23, ventured outside to go to a pharmacy but then planned to stay home.
"Everything is just on pause," he said, gazing out at vacant streets.
Cuzzort and Stanhope were doing exactly as officials advised. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed had implored people on Tuesday night to get somewhere safe and stay there.
"The message I really want to share is, as of midnight tonight, wherever you are, you need to plan on staying there for a while," Reed said. "The bottom line is that all of the information that we have right now suggests that we are facing an icing event that is very unusual for the metropolitan region and the state of Georgia."
In an early Wednesday memo, the National Weather Service called the storm "an event of historical proportions."
It continued: "Catastrophic ... crippling ... paralyzing ... choose your adjective."