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Atlanta area braces for ice storm; 4 die in Texas



By CHRISTINA A. CASSIDY

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

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Steve February 11 2014 at 4:28 PM

NOW THEY KNOW HOW EVERYONE ELSE FEELS WHEN WE GET BLASTED BY THIS ****

Flag Reply +2 rate up
joeknowswoodies February 11 2014 at 4:44 PM

I know the body shops and wrecker drivers are loving it...lol...thanks

Flag Reply +1 rate up
charlieman2010 February 11 2014 at 4:44 PM

Best to prepare like a hurricane...water, batteries, heaters, blankets, etc....

you can also visit mickey mouse....S FL 83 degrees today....

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1 reply
kenbushway charlieman2010 February 11 2014 at 4:46 PM

Have to drive there first...

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2 replies
Allien kenbushway February 11 2014 at 5:00 PM

Yeah, and then you have to put up with all the insanity that is Florida. NOBODY should live in Florida. It should be the everglades, and NOTHING ELSE.

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crazylegscarrie kenbushway February 11 2014 at 5:05 PM

They say if you can drive in New York you can drive anywhere Ha try Baltimore you got better chances in getting robbed at the 7-11 then getting the streets cleared off lol

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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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4 replies
Cheyenne@satx.rr.com February 11 2014 at 4:54 PM

I feel bad for all those people who are in trouble because of the weather ..I like snow alot but not if it cost people's lives then its to much just wanted to let you know that

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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
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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lostinnd February 11 2014 at 4:36 PM

I find this so confusing . We deal with this weather evry winter in N.D and worse. This is something that can be learned to deal with . Please dont drive if you dont know how to drive in this type of weather . We too have seen this problem since so many have come to find "gold" in Williston. I pray so many will find the courage to say "NO I am not going anywhere " No job is worth my life

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1 reply
Sheryl lostinnd February 11 2014 at 4:54 PM

This is what people don't seem to understand. In the South we don't deal with it every winter. We deal with it so little, that it is not worth the cost for most cities to have the equipment on hand to clear the roads. We can go years without snow or ice, or just have a dusting of snow, which limits no one. We don't know how to drive on it because we rarely have to deal with it. If you rarely had to deal with it, than it would become a big deal to you.

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