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Georgia braces for 2nd snowstorm in 2 weeks

ATLANTA (AP) - When snow fell on Atlanta two weeks ago, downtown streets of the South's business hub were jammed with unmoving cars, highway motorists slept overnight in vehicles or abandoned them where they sat, and students were forced to camp out in school gymnasiums when roads turned too treacherous for buses to navigate.

Things promised to be different Tuesday, when another round of rain, sleet and freezing rain was expected to begin walloping the area.

That's not necessarily because city and state officials are going to be better prepared - although they promised they would be - but because many people aren't going to take a chance that they will get trapped again.

"Basically, everyone from the office is going to be working from home" on Tuesday, said Dakota Herrera as he left a car park in downtown Atlanta to go to his office Monday.

Atlanta has a long and painful history of being ill-equipped to deal with snowy weather. Despite officials' promises following a crippling ice storm in 2011 that they would be better prepared next time, the storm that hit the area Jan. 28 proved they still had many kinks to work out.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal indicated on Monday that he and other state officials had learned their lesson. Before a single drop of freezing rain or snow fell, Deal declared a state of emergency for nearly a third of the state and state employees were told they could stay home if they felt conditions were too dangerous. Schools canceled classes, and Deal urged people who didn't need to be anywhere to stay off the roads. Tractor-trailer drivers were handed fliers about the weather and a law requiring chains on tires in certain conditions.

"We are certainly ahead of the game this time, and that's important," Deal said. "We are trying to be ready, prepared and react as quickly as possible."

That kind of reassurance was a hard sell with some.

"I'm not counting on it," said Terri Herod, who bought a large bag of sand and a shovel at local hardware store. "I've been in Georgia on and off for 20 years. It's usually the same scenario: not enough preparations and not enough equipment."

Memories of the last storm are still painfully fresh. Students were trapped on buses or at schools and thousands of cars were abandoned along highways as short commutes turned into odysseys. One woman gave birth on a jammed interstate. Officials reported one accident-related death.

This storm could be worse this time. A one-two punch of winter weather was expected for Atlanta and northern Georgia. Rain and snow were forecast Tuesday, followed by sleet and freezing rain Wednesday. Downed power lines and icy roads were a major worry.

Other parts of the South were expected to get hit as well. Alabama, which saw stranded vehicles and had 10,000 students spend the night in schools during the January storm, was likely to get a wintry mix of precipitation. Parts of Mississippi could see 3 inches of snow, and a blast of snow over a wide section of Kentucky slickened roads and closed several school districts. South Carolina, which hasn't seen a major ice storm in nearly a decade, could get a quarter to three-quarters of an inch of ice.

On Monday, Deal was doing many things differently than he had last month. He opened an emergency operations center and held two news conferences before the storm. In January, Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed did not hold their first news conference until hours after highways were jammed.

When the Jan. 28 storm hit, Deal was at an awards luncheon with Reed, who was named a magazine's 2014 "Georgian of the Year."

Reed had just tweeted: "Atlanta, we are ready for the snow."

This time, the mayor made no such predictions. Instead, he said he was in contact with school leaders and the city had 120 pieces of equipment to spread salt and sand and plow snow. The National Guard had 1,400 four-wheeled drive vehicles to help anyone stranded.

"We are just going to get out here and, flat out, let our work speak for itself," Reed said.

Much is at stake for the governor, a Republican who is up for re-election, and Reed, who is seen as a rising star in the Democratic Party and has aspirations for higher office. Both took heat from residents, forecasters and even comedians during the last storm.

Saturday Night Live spoofed a storm "survivor" with a thick Southern accent. "The sun will rise again," the character said at one point. Jon Stewart quipped: "The ice age zombie doomsday apocalypse has come to Atlanta."

The governor apologized and announced the formation of a task force to study the problems. This time, ice posed a major concern.

Aaron Strickland, emergency operations director for Georgia Power, said the utility was bringing in crews from Florida, Texas, Oklahoma and Michigan.

"Ice is probably one of the worst events we face," Strickland said. "When you look at the types of ice we are talking about, it's catastrophic."

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Drew February 11 2014 at 1:43 PM

I had to get out my set of studded 22's

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floatgod February 11 2014 at 1:26 PM

Al Gore has a new scientific theory:
We will have global warming in the summer, and
global cooling in the winter.

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kenbushway February 11 2014 at 12:21 PM

Yep no chances this time. All schools are canceled, businesses are shutting down and not even a real amount of snow has fallen. It just takes once and people won't make the same mistakes again.

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bubby74 February 11 2014 at 12:19 PM

The media is extremely unkind to the South, and always has been. They will print anything to continue with the stereotypical view of Southerners being ignorant, redneck, and uneducated people. But I can tell you this, after reading comments and replies from people in other parts of the U.S. , ignorance and stupidity abounds. Horrendous spelling , grammatical errors, and the silly comments from all the "snow driving experts" in Northern states, just reinforces that there are idiots everywhere. I love the South. I love it when it snows, when it ices up, when it's 100 plus degrees, or even when people from other parts of the country make us sound like the dumbest people in the world, and thinking we should be ashamed to be from here. I wouldn't live anywhere else. Go ahead and post your snide remarks and biased thoughts about us. I guarantee you do not know the first thing about who or what we really are. We are some of the kindest, smartest people you could ever have the pleasure of knowing.

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dwc1863 February 11 2014 at 12:10 PM

Storm of a generation? I think not, unless you count twice? This one will be well prepared for. In fact the term over react won't cover it. Or the media coverage we will all be subject to.

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mattie2310 February 11 2014 at 12:01 PM

People just do not understand , It's the South. We don't get snow like NY, Chicago and or other places do. It wouldn't be any different than LA or SF getting snow and those folks wouldn't know what to do. WE are not used to driving in it, even using common sense. I've lived here most all my life, born here but lived in the North, so I know from driving in it. It's just not the same here people. And there's more folks from other states here than born and raised here. So give us a break. We are not set up for it like in the North.

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kenbushway February 11 2014 at 12:26 PM

Right we aren't prepared for winter but we can't drive in the rain down here either. At least not in the places of Ga I live in.

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Nancy February 11 2014 at 1:15 PM

Ken, you are SO right about people not being able to drive in the rain in the South. I live in Florida, and I have seen some crazy stuff that people have done trying to drive in the rain. We have "black ice" here...the roads are coated with oil and other stuff from cars, and then when they get wet, they get slippery....and people STILL insist on speeding on wet roads. They will NEVER learn. I am originally from the Northeast, so I know all about snow, and how to drive in it. I've been in Florida for over 36 years now, and will never go back to the Northeast to live.

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rugulah February 11 2014 at 11:59 AM

The photo at the top of the story – a man with an umbrella – proves why Atlanta can't handle the snow. Umbrellas are for rain. Hats, gloves and snow boots are for the snow. Seriously. Look at photos of people who live in snowy areas. Do you ever, ever see an umbrella in the winter?

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Nancy February 11 2014 at 1:11 PM

The photo at the top of this article is NOT Atlanta. It's Albany, N.Y., if you had read the description under it. Read before you post.

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logbabe13 February 11 2014 at 11:53 AM

the hay with atlanta!

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Fuzzy February 11 2014 at 11:46 AM

Gee, maybe Atlanta can have the next winter Olympics, if things keep going they way they are?

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jda7175098 February 11 2014 at 11:35 AM

Just In: Next years Iditarod race will be moved frome Nome Alaska to Atlanta GA.

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