A vehicle ran off the road during a snow storm, Jan. 28, 2014 in Canton, Ga. (Photo: Kelly J. Huff. The Marietta Daily Journal, AP)
ATLANTA (USA TODAY) -- Gov. Nathan Deal, who mobilized the National Guard Wednesday to rescue
motorists stranded on ice-bound freeways and to offer them food water
and shelter, blamed the National Weather Service predicting that the
storm would hit farther south.
See Also: Deep freeze leaves thousands stranded
Deal said the weather service "had continually had modeling showing
Atlanta would not be the primary area (of the storm) it would be south
At one point around noon on Tuesday, he said, key
freeway traffic flow indicators went from green to red in about 30
minutes, signaling that traffic had come to a standstill.
Guard was out in force in Humvees to reach a virtual parking lot on area
freeways as desperate drivers either abandoned their vehicles outright
or spent up to 24 hours waiting for relief.
Deal, like the governors of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina and South Carolina, declared a state of emergency.
said the goal was to reach every stranded driver "and make sure we have
enough shelter to get them off the roads and get them someplace warm."
He said those who chose to stay in their cars, were being offered food, water and blankets.
governor said a major headache was 18-wheeler trucks that had
jack-knifed on several roadways and prevented traffic from moving.
the paralysis set in, some commuters pleaded for help via cellphones
while still holed up in their cars, while others gave up and trudged
miles to their home.
Deal also said there had been "significant
progress" in rescuing schoolkids stranded at schools in counties around
Atlanta, but that no children were still stuck on buses. At one point,
he said, 99 school buses from Atlanta schools were trapped in the icy
He said, however, that at least 2,000 still remained at schools in Atlanta, Fulton, Cobb and Douglas counties.
said the guard and state troopers had either taken the children to
their homes, or had escorted school buses through the jammed streets
Shepherd, a meteorologist with the University of Georgia and current
president of the American Meteorological Society, said neither
meteorologists in general, nor the specific forecast for the Atlanta
area, were to blame.
"The buses had a tough time getting kids home, but meteorologists should not be thrown under the bus," he said.
mayor Kasim Reed also said that the top priority for the city is
getting food, water and gasoline to "a lot of people" still stranded in
their car on ice-locked highways.
In addition, Reed told reporters
that while many freeways remained paralyzed, the city's priority routes
to hospitals and for fire fighters were open and functioning.
He said there had been 791 traffic accidents during the period, with no fatalities.
mayor defended his city's response to the storm, saying one million
people got out of the city, but that many got stuck when they hit the
interstates, which are maintained by the state.
"This has been an
ordeal for everyone," said Georgia DOT spokeswoman Natalie Dale. "This
storm and the bitter temperatures have caused so much difficulty,
discomfort and anxiety for so many Georgians. We believe roadways will
be restored to some level of normalcy today but would encourage the
public to remain home, preferably all day."
That was little
relief, however, for the harrowing experience faced by hundreds of
motorists. Police in suburban Atlanta say one officer helped assist the
safe delivery of a baby girl on a gridlocked interstate Tuesday after
snow and ice brought traffic to a crawl.
Sandy Springs Police Capt. Steve Rose told The Associated Press that a
traffic officer arrived on the scene only minutes ahead of the infant.
"Fortunately he had his emergency lights on and people got out of his way," Rose said. "The delivery was pretty flawless."
about two-to-three inches of snow fell in Atlanta during the storm, but
it was enough to ground hundreds of flights at Hartsfield International
Airport - the U.S.'s busiest -- and paralyze the metropolitan area.
Hartwig, a waitress at an Atlanta area waffle house, said she managed
to keep her cool thanks in part to the kindness of strangers after 10
hours on the road.
"I'm calm," she said. "That's all you can be.
People are helping each other out, people are moving cars that have spun
out or had become disabled. It's been really nice. I even saw people
passing out hot coffee and granola bars."
"This was, hands down, the worst day of my life," Evan McLean of Canton, who told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he "was literally stranded on Canton road for two and half hours without moving an inch."
Cobb County chairman Tim Lee was among drivers stuck on I-75 in his truck north of the Chattahoochee River.
He said residents were calling him to request salt trucks, but he saw a silver lining in the lengthy gridlock.
good news is that traffic is so jammed up they can't get going too
fast, so there's a lot fender benders but there's no injuries," he told The Marietta Daily Journal.
traveler who had arrived Tuesday afternoon at Atlanta's airport from
Maine spent five hours in traffic without moving when an WXIA reporter
caught up with him.
He offered some Back East advice to Georgia's highway maintenance teams.
should put some salt on the road," he said. "When it's going to be wet
and cold, get the salt trucks on the road. It's not hard."
the storm that gripped much of the Deep South has moved into the
Atlantic, there is little chance of significant melting of untreated
roads and bridges Wednesday, according to Weather Channel meteorologist
Highs may struggle to reach the freezing mark in
cities such as Atlanta and Charleston, S.C., he said.. Areas near the
Gulf Coast such as Mobile and Pensacola may not rise much above
freezing, even if a few rays of sunshine peek through the clouds later
in the day.