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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."

Join the discussion

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ht4cycle February 11 2014 at 8:14 AM

If I was the mayor I would cancel everything for a week. Then tell the people to deal with it. Let them know that no one is coming to get them if they make the stupid decision to go out in this stuff. Obviously people in Atlanta are not intelligent enough to make that decision on their own. No one can argue that since the last time they had so many problems and they wanted to blame the Mayor for all of them. Not this time. Here is a hint people of Atlanta. IT'S GOING TO SNOW.

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1 reply
Roberta ht4cycle February 11 2014 at 10:41 AM

You would not want to be re elected?

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laugh February 11 2014 at 8:10 AM

You folks had trouble with snow. Wait until you try ice. You'll WISH for snow.
Good luck though, I hope it misses you.

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2 replies
ggblank1603 laugh February 11 2014 at 8:24 AM

It was ice that caused all the trouble last time

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1 reply
J E KOLASH ggblank1603 February 11 2014 at 10:33 AM

Stupidity and Ice..a dangerous combination!

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Roberta laugh February 11 2014 at 10:43 AM

No one can drive on ice not even yankees.

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gary February 11 2014 at 7:39 AM

i saw on the news lastnight someone said they were being over cautious. after all the hell they caught last time, i dont think so:)

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1 reply
Roberta gary February 11 2014 at 10:54 AM

Everyone is entitled to his Opinion.

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Pearl February 11 2014 at 9:33 AM

STAY IN AND OUT OF THE WEATHER IF IT IS AT ALL POSSIBLE, BEST WISHES FROM LAS VEGAS, AND SEND WATER PLEASE,

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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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vicki February 11 2014 at 9:46 AM

Stay home...

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Schmoe & Wendy February 11 2014 at 11:32 AM

I live in SouthWestern Pennsylvania. We deal with snow and ICE every year. It does take skill to drive in..but common sense should take over at some point. My sister lives in Savannah. She stated that people there freak out driving in the rain.......like other people say "stay home and off the roads"....how hard is that if all the major roads are shut down anyway? once again, common sense....!!!

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kenyng February 11 2014 at 11:21 AM

I grew up in New York with snow and blizzards being a normal part of winter life.

Having to dig your car out of the snow, lying on the ground to put on tire chains was all a part of winter.

Driving in the snow means driving prepared and with caution, we all managed to survive each winter.

My Relatives in New York and New England still do.

I understand that places unaccustomed to snow and ice may initially have some difficulties, but common sense has to kick in at some point,

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garykuz February 11 2014 at 11:26 AM

Give me a break. Atlanta being ready for snow??? It will never happen. It will be just as it was two weeks ago. They do not monitor the highways enough, nor do they close impassable roads.

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Denileriverafter February 11 2014 at 6:57 AM

First, it never snows in these areas, so the people never learn how to drive in it. Second, stores do not carry snow chains or snow tires because it NEVER snows in these areas, and they would just sit and collect dust for YEARS, or get marked down and take a loss. Third, it almost always rains first, then it FREEZES into ice, THEN it snows on TOP of the ice, so you slide around no matter how experienced you are at drive in snow! I dare ANYone in the north to come down and drive on ice without the right equipment, and surrounded by newbies!

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2 replies
vietnamvet1967 Denileriverafter February 11 2014 at 7:12 AM

And still they tell people to get on the roads

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2 replies
sweetdreams7554 vietnamvet1967 February 11 2014 at 7:30 AM

No, they tell them to stay off the highways, but all the idiots think they can handle it!

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donrald vietnamvet1967 February 11 2014 at 7:33 AM

No they don't . People do not listen . I bet they will now !

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Bob Wagner Denileriverafter February 11 2014 at 7:13 AM

i never drove on lard before but one day I did when a truck over turned .... Slow and steady driving with extra distance for stopping . I'm still driving on sheets of ice here in ohio , so what . Snow Tires ? I use the same all season radials year round that are sold everywhere else . Cooper CX4 on my Taurus and Hancook on my wifes new Elantra .... chains are illegal ... Get your facts straight before commenting

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1 reply
sweetdreams7554 Bob Wagner February 11 2014 at 7:32 AM

They are not illegal in GA. We have, and use them. So do the first responders and state patrol.

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