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Atlanta area braces for ice storm; 4 die in Texas


ATLANTA (AP) - The city dodged the first punch of a dangerous winter storm Tuesday, but forecasters warned of a potentially "catastrophic" second blow in a thick layer of ice that threatened to bring hundreds of thousands of power outages and leave people in their cold, dark homes for days.

The streets and highways in metro Atlanta were largely deserted as people in the South's business hub heeded advice from officials to hunker down at home, especially after the snow jam two weeks ago saw thousands of people stranded on icy, gridlocked roads for hours when 2 inches of snow fell.

"Last time I was totally unprepared, I was completely blindsided," said Lisa Nadir, of Acworth, who sat in traffic for 13 hours and then spent the night in her car when the storm hit Jan. 28. "I'm going to be prepared from now on for the rest of my life."

Nadir was telecommuting from home Tuesday and she had kitty litter in her trunk in case she needed to put it down on icy roads for extra traction.

The forecast drew comparisons to an ice storm in the Atlanta area in 2000 that left more than 500,000 homes and businesses without power and an epic storm in 1973 that caused an estimated 200,000 outages for several days. In 2000, damage estimates topped $35 million.

Eli Jacks, a meteorologist with National Weather Service, said forecasters use words like "catastrophic" sparingly.

"Sometimes we want to tell them, 'Hey, listen, this warning is different. This is really extremely dangerous and it doesn't happen very often,'" Jacks said.

This kind of language was first used in May 1999 for a tornado in Moore, Okla. Forecasters called it a "tornado emergency" to make sure the public knew it was not a typical tornado.

"I think three-quarters of an inch of ice anywhere would be catastrophic," Jacks said.

But the Atlanta area and other parts of the South are particularly vulnerable because there are so many trees and limbs hanging over power lines. When the ice builds up on them, limbs snap and fall, knocking out power.

"There is no doubt that this is one of Mother Nature's worst kinds of storms that can be inflicted on the South, and that is ice. It is our biggest enemy," Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said.

While only light rain fell in Atlanta on Tuesday, cities 40 miles northwest saw 2 to 3 inches of snow. The rain was expected to turn into sleet and freezing rain overnight.

More than 200 utility vehicles from Florida, North Carolina and other Southern states gathered in a parking lot near one of the grandstands at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The state had more than 22,000 tons of salt, 70,000 gallons of brine 45,000 tons of gravel and brought in 180 tons of additional salt and sand. The goal was to make sure at least two interstate lanes were available in each direction. Then material would be used on the most heavily used roads off the highways. Officials were also considering re-routing traffic in extreme circumstances.

"It's certainly going to be a challenge for us. Ice is definitely different than snow," said state Transportation Commissioner Keith Golden. "It is very difficult for us to plow ice."

Hundreds of 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. President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency in Georgia, ordering federal agencies to help the state and local response during the storm. Deal said a priority for that request was generators.

Metro Atlanta, the economic engine of the South with the headquarters of Fortune 500 companies including Home Depot, UPS, Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola, resembled a ghost town. Schools were closed and grocery store shelves were bare of milk and bread.

State and local officials, chastened by tough criticism for their slow response to the Jan. 28 storm, were eager to prove they could handle winter storms.

On Monday, before a 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. He expanded the declaration Tuesday to more than half the state's counties.

Dustin Wilkes, 36, of Atlanta, was one of the few who headed to the office Tuesday. His parking lot was mostly deserted.

"I think they probably overreacted," Wilkes said. "It's to be expected."

Atlanta has a painful past of being ill-equipped to deal with snowy weather. Despite officials' promises after a crippling ice storm in 2011, the Jan. 28 storm proved they still had many kinks to work out.

Around the Deep South, slick roads were causing problems. In North Texas, at least four people died in traffic accidents on icy roads, including a Dallas firefighter who was knocked from an Interstate 20 ramp and fell 50 feet, according to a police report.

In northeastern Alabama, two National Guard wreckers were dispatched to help clear jackknifed 18-wheelers on Interstate 65. Gov. Robert Bentley said one lesson learned from the storm two weeks ago was to get those wreckers organized earlier.

Michelle Owen, of Mount Pleasant, Tenn., was driving north on Interstate 65 when she hit an icy patch on a bridge. Her sport-utility vehicle and a trailer it was pulling fishtailed, sending her 18-year-old son Tyler through the rear window and on to the car that was atop the trailer.

"He wound up on top of the Mustang we were hauling," Owen said. He suffered only minor injuries.

Parts of northeast Mississippi could see up to 4 inches of snow. 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 and as much as 8 inches of snow in some areas.

Delta canceled nearly 2,200 flights on Tuesday and Wednesday, most of them in Atlanta.

Georgia Looks To Avoid Embarrassment In Second Storm

Join the discussion

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millstv8 February 11 2014 at 2:37 PM

One driving tip for the good folks in the south. If you start to slide after putting on your brakes for goodness sake take your foot OFF of the brake. You will then regain steering ability and have some control over the direction your vehicle is going. Good luck and be safe.

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2 replies
winn315 millstv8 February 11 2014 at 2:41 PM

Thank you millsstv8 for your kind thoughts and suggestion. As a deep south born guy, with multiple years up Nawth LOL in severe snow zones, I know your advice is good. Thanks again and you fine folks stay safe up there as well.

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risley millstv8 February 11 2014 at 2:47 PM

Turn into the slide, which always sounds wrong, but it self corrects the slide. Trust me, I have driven in a lot of snow and your four wheel drive trucks and SUVs on ice mean nothing, well except you will slide faster.

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jspfarm February 11 2014 at 5:12 PM

It was -20 at 6am this morning here in Wisconsin, we have about 16 inches of snow on the ground and are expecting up to another 8 inches of snow over the next 4-5 days. Those folks in the south have no idea what a real winter is like. What they are having now would be a minor inconvenience here, the ice does make it a bit worse but we handle that too.
But best wishes to those folks anyhow, slow down, be safe and be careful...

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3 replies
Salve Tutti! February 11 2014 at 5:16 PM

"Up to 3/4 of an inch"….and they are talking catastrophe. I would have laughed at that, before. After having seen, though, people in different parts of the country react to weather they are unaccustomed to, in a sheer panic, my sympathy goes out to them. When I loved to Raleigh, NC, for a short while some years ago, and it snowed a few inches, the 'city' was paralyzed and people just stuck, supermarkets empty with shelves empty. People didn't know what to do or which way to turn if skidding. I moved to LA, not much rain. One day it rained, and rained and rained. People panicked. Water was shooting out of the gratings in the streets and pouring down from the mountain separating the LA Basin and the Valley! The media reporting people to vacate their homes in N. Hollywood, where very wealthy people live, as their homes are attached to the side of the mountain, either made a part of the mountain or on stilts and were about to fall down the mountain. No one knew how to drive in such wet weather and again, were skidding and knew not with was to steer the car in a wipe out. I think, for me, having grown up in the NE, experiencing hurricanes, blizzards, drought….we get it all….we acclimate to different weather, noting there to shock us, unless like last year, a storm like Sandy comes along. Then, panic, justifiably. Indeed, all the panic, from LA to Raleigh was justified. When one has no clue how to drive or react in weather that they've never seen before or happens so seldom, with the media screaming out of the TV and radio….'alert', 'alert', 'alert'…..! People panic. Hope this storm has made people rethink their plans this time around and stay indoors, all "unessential" workers so there are closed schools, businesses, etc and no one is on the roads or in places they cannot get home, from. I wish them all the best and I empathize with them. "Pax et Bonum"…to them and us all.

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3 replies
kaustin February 11 2014 at 2:22 PM

Lets see.....woodstove's fired up and plenty of firewood on the porch; propane stove is in full operation; artisian well means I get water even when the power goes out. ....

But then, up here in the northeast, that's October - April

Have fun down there ;-)

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1 reply
stellaah98 kaustin February 11 2014 at 2:27 PM

dont laugh too hard - we watched NJ fold and scream when a hurricane hit - we have had 4 of those type storms in 6 weeks and not a peep or moaning from we folks along the sunny beaches ! People lose their homes every year here from storms = you would have thought Sandy was the storms of all storm - notta !

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3 replies
Rick February 11 2014 at 2:21 PM

Weather smeather.....gees get out of the way for snowflakes falling and ice 3/4 inch thick too...OMG!

Come on...get some steaks....get some battery powered flashlights..tell ur neighbors and chill...in fact ,get some needed rest..so what if Tv goes out..it's al horrible news anymore...no more good news!
2 days....soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo what!

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Janice February 11 2014 at 5:16 PM

my son lives in Birmingham and of course I am worried about his commute to work and back. So many folks are real idiots even on no bad weather. My prayers are with all the states that are having bad weather. I live in Nevada, so I will try not to brag on our weather. Well its 64 today. God Bless all Jan, Las Vegas NV

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1 reply
walklady Janice February 11 2014 at 5:28 PM

Janice, trust me people in the south do not know how to drive, let alone drive in horrible ice and snow conditions. I moved to Arkansas from California, and I am appalled that there is no regard for laws of the road! I was born and raised in the northeast and I left there for a reason. I never dreamed the south would be so brutally cold! Hope I can go west again someday!

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1 reply
SisterGeriA walklady February 11 2014 at 5:42 PM

Me too

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nomadicsub February 11 2014 at 6:08 PM

It has snowed off and on for thousands of years, at least. But there is only one Kim Kardashian, and she switched back to being a brunette.

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Louise February 11 2014 at 6:09 PM

I live in the east and I rather have a foot of snow then a few inches of ice! It's dangerous no matter what you drive. We lost power for 4 days once and when it's cold it's no picnic. Bring on Spring, I'm done!!

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1 reply
jmg62 Louise February 11 2014 at 6:37 PM

I'm with you Louise - we had a branch breaking - power losing ice storm in Western New York (1989-'90?) - across the lake fronts - torn branches - power lines down - never had one like this before. As a going away present I'd bought my family foods to fill their freezers and pantries - but the power cuts out. Not only lose a 40 gallon fresh water aquarium (Angel fish had built a nest to lay eggs in so moving them was going to be difficult anyway - but nephew's were willing to help out), and although freezing - not a steady enough temperature to keep foods safe in - had to chuck $4,000.00 out and a fish tank with award winning fish in it a day later. Sad flushing all those fishes and the "parents to be". I'd had a '74 Monte Carlo - 4 barrel 350 that helped TOW people out of ditches in a FOOT + of snow - but when that ice hit - wild! Snow I can drive in. Easterners learn how to drive in snow earlier than parallel park. But the Black Ice here in Philly - surprised more people aren't dead. Short of tire spikes one can deploy by pressing a button - 360 degree twirls going along at a "speedy" 30 MPH aren't unheard of - picking up velocity on every revolution like these Olympic skaters. The Ice Storms "moved on down the coast" - but they come back every so often. Surprised about Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia getting "walloped" though - not something normally happens when the North is colder - but has less precipitation. They're usually spared.

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marianicole62 February 11 2014 at 2:07 PM

We're used to this in PA, we've reached the 60-inch mark for the winter since December! And that's a mix of both snow and ice. And "hosereal3" - you're a real jerk. These people aren't used to it like us in the East, of course they're going to panic!

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cooldad46 February 11 2014 at 2:04 PM

This is to all our Southern Neighbors, I've lived in Michigan 65 years 50 of them driving in all kinds of conditions. All I can say is, be careful slippery road are no different there as they are here. Be cautious when driving the best advise keep it slow always. Good luck yall

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