Ga. still crippled by ice, snow; roads treacherous
Jan. 11, 2011 at 1:02 p.m.
Updated Jan. 10, 2011 at 7:11 p.m.
ATLANTA (AP) - A winter storm left many parts of Georgia crippled for a second day Tuesday, stranding Greyhound bus passengers in Atlanta without food and closing down government offices and school districts as roads remained coated in snow and ice.
The Georgia Department of Transportation brought in crews from central Georgia to help with treacherous conditions on interstates in Atlanta, shutting down large portions of I-285 throughout the day to spread salt, gravel and deicer in hopes of making the road passable. Cities looked like ghost towns as stores and restaurants remained closed as residents hunkered down at home.
Gov. Nathan Deal urged drivers to stay off the road.
"I want to reiterate, if you do not need to be on the roads please, do not go out and attempt to drive, he said. "The road conditions are not going to cleared up immediately."
Trucker Vernon Cook, 67, had been sitting still on an interstate ramp just south of Atlanta for almost 24 hours Tuesday in a long line of tractor trailers that couldn't move because of ice.
"I've been a trucker for 46 years and have seen nothing like this," said Cook, who was headed with a load of synthetic rubber from Beaumont, Texas, to Fayetteville, N.C. "Georgia DOT is not working, not on this road."
DOT crews got the trucks moved out Tuesday afternoon, but efforts were hampered by frigid temperatures that caused thawed roadways to refreeze and by traffic back ups, said spokeswoman Jill Goldberg.
"Our trucks and crews are out there treating every single thing they can get to," Goldberg said.
All interstates in metro Atlanta were clear by 5 p.m. Tuesday but forecasters warned they would refreeze overnight as temperatures were expected to dip into the teens.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said the city was bringing in nearly 60 pieces of equipment to help clear roads. He said the city was ready for snowstorms like it's had in the past, but this severe icy blast took the city by surprise.
"This has required patience," he said in a Tuesday news conference. "But everybody here has been at it."
The Atlanta jail and several local charities delivered food, blankets and bottled water Tuesday to more than 300 passengers stuck at the Greyhound bus station in downtown Atlanta. Many had been stranded there since early Monday, but Reed said the city has worked with Greyhound to provide meals and hotel rooms for the passengers starting Tuesday.
Greg Walton, 32, of Orlando, Fla., said his bus started losing traction and the battery eventually died when it neared Atlanta. He'd been stuck at the station since being ferried there on another bus Monday.
"They bring us here, then they just declared martial law on us," he said, jokingly.
Greyhound spokeswoman Maureen Richmond said the company doing its best to help passengers.
Forecasters say the roads likely won't improve much until the end of the week. Temperatures are expected to remain around freezing during the day Wednesday with a little warming on Thursday, which means ice and snow will melt very slowly, said Jason Deese with the National Weather Service in Peachtree City.
He said overnight temperatures will dip into the teens.
"It's not going to be anything that's quick by any means," Deese said.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport was essentially deserted for a second day. More than 2,000 flights were canceled Monday and another 1,500 were canceled Tuesday, airline officials said.
Delta Air Lines officials said workers, pilots and flight attendants spent the night on airplanes or in Delta Sky Clubs at the airport to be ready once normal flights resumed.
Tampa, Fla., resident Loren Baker said he was stuck at the airport since Tuesday morning after a one-day trip to Los Angeles for a business meeting. He said many workers at airport restaurants and coffee shops had been there for three days and were sleeping in stores because they couldn't get home.
"It's nice a lot of places are open. Even though staff are apparently sleeping in the book stores, it's helping people out a lot - the ability to have that comfort," said Baker, 38.
Many school districts - particularly those in metro Atlanta - were closed again Tuesday and some were making plans to be closed Wednesday. Many colleges were closed Tuesday, including the University of Georgia, Georgia State University, Georgia Tech and Kennesaw State University.
The Georgia Board of Regents canceled its monthly meeting Wednesday, and the state Board of Education delayed its meeting until Thursday. The Georgia Supreme Court was closed Tuesday for the second day in a row.
Georgia's new governor initially was to deliver his first State of the State address to a joint session of the state Legislature at 11 a.m. Wednesday. That's now been pushed back to 2 p.m. due to the weather, he said.
Some residents didn't heed warnings to stay off the roads.
David Williams chipped furiously Tuesday at inch-thick gray ice around the tires of his GMC Yukon. He had to walk a mile home to get a shovel and then back to a breakfast spot in Atlanta's Candler Park neighborhood after his SUV got stuck in the parking lot.
"I'm starting to go stir crazy. That's the reason I went out," the 47-year-old accountant said. "I thought, 'How bad can it be to drive a mile?' Now I wish I'd walked."
Associated Press writers Shannon McCaffrey, Kate Brumback, Mike Stewart, David Goldman, Don Schanche Jr. and Errin Haines in Atlanta contributed to this report.