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Ice Cripples Metro Roads in Atlanta, Highways Are 'Impassable'

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ATLANTA -- Layers of ice and snow made some metro Atlanta roads and highways virtually impossible to drive for a second day as Georgia Department of Transportation crews worked quickly to alleviate the number of stranded vehicles.

GDOT has 45 trucks on the road in the metro area and said road crews are working 12 hour shifts to improve or at least maintain the roadways.

Big rigs trying to navigate through icy conditions Monday were blamed for several accidents across metro Atlanta and northern Georgia, many of trucks remains parked on the side of the interstates on Tuesday.

GA Daily News traffic reporter Mark Arum said I-285 in south Metro Atlanta took the worst of it. "Avoid the entire south side perimeter. It's impassable," said Arum. "We have a number of problems Tuesday morning that we had on Monday morning. Some commuters have been stuck for hours," Arum added.

The closings included:

    * I-20 in Rockdale County from exit 78 to exit 88
    * I-285 was blocked at I-75 in Clayton County and Bouldercrest Rd.
    * I-75 northbound was blocked at the South Loop. The alternate Hwy. 41 was also ice covered
    * I-675 northbound ramp to I-285
    * I-285 ramp to Indian Creek MARTA station

I-20 was blocked at Highway 6 by tractor trailers stranded in the ice but some smaller cars were able to snake through, according to Arum. For that reason, the Georgia Department of Transportation put out an urgent plea asking drivers of tractor-trailers to limit their travel to emergencies only.

“The interstates are proving to be difficult for vehicles to maneuver, so please try to avoid any travel if at all possible,” said State Maintenance Engineer Eric Pitts.

In metro Atlanta, the snow had stopped falling by Monday morning, but falling sleet and freezing rain threatened to worsen treacherous road conditions.

"We'll have freezing drizzle on and off most of the day, so the freezing rain advisory could be extended," said Severe Weather Team 2 meteorologist David Chandley.

"I'm not expecting additional accumulations, just a glaze on the snowpack. Temperatures on Tuesday will struggle into the low 30s, with just an hour or so above 32 and then falling tonight with the arrival of an arctic front," added Chandley.

"A great thaw will not take place until the weekend when highs finally reach the 40s," said Chandley.

That's why Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is urging drivers to stay off the roads.

Many streets and highways across metro Atlanta and north Georgia are coated with ice, and because temperatures won't rise above freezing, there is no immediate end in sight.

"We have received numerous calls regarding abandoned vehicles on the roadway and stranded motorists," said Fulton County police spokesman Kimberley M. Everett.

Atlanta police said they responded to 22 accidents Monday due to the weather. Between 9 p.m. Sunday and 2 p.m. Monday, DeKalb County officials said they dispatched 919 calls.

Severe Weather Team 2 chief meteorologist Glenn Burns echoed the mayor's message.

“What’s ahead is a very grim scenario,” said Burns. "Even though they salt the roads and sand the roads, we still get more freezing rain and freezing drizzle developing after that."

A winter storm warning was canceled for metro Atlanta and northern Georgia on Monday afternoon, but it was replaced by a freezing rain advisory that will remain in effect until 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Freezing rain, which is rain that freezes on contact with surfaces that are 32 degrees or lower, would continue possibly until Wednesday, Severe Weather Team 2 meteorologist Brad Nitz said. He said very little melting will occur because temperatures will not rise above 32 degrees until Tuesday afternoon.

"The snowpack and ice pack is likely to stay here right through the rest of the week," Nitz said.

DOT salt trucks hit the streets, working to keep the roads clear. Georgia Department of Transportation representative David Spear said 1,000 workers and almost 600 pieces of equipment were out statewide.

“People just need to stay in today. It’s not a joke,” Spear said Monday.

Channel 2’s Richard Elliot went to midtown Atlanta, where a DOT officer was digging out a driver stuck in the snow.

Abandoned cars across metro Atlanta streets and interstates demonstrated the danger of road conditions. Ten abandoned cars were lined up on Interstate 20 near Flat Shoals Road.

A MARTA bus spun out on Interstate 85 early Monday morning. A few hours later, MARTA officials said bus service was canceled for the day and rail service was delayed.

"Bus service will be temporarily suspended for Tuesday until conditions improve enough to allow vehicles back onto the streets," MARTA representative Cara Hudgson said.

The storm system prompted many school districts to cancel classes and airlines to cancel hundreds of flights Monday. Some of metro Atlanta's biggest school districts have called off classes for Tuesday, too. CLICK HERE for a complete list of closings.

Gov. Sonny Perdue declared a state of emergency in Georgia as a result of the winter storm. Perdue issued the executive order Sunday night, hours before the storm was supposed to hit. It was his last act as governor. Gov.-elect Nathan Deal was sworn in Monday. Deal canceled all nonessential inaugural activities for Monday due to winter weather. Neither the Prayer Breakfast at Mount Paran nor the Celebration at Philips Arena was held.

Georgia Power officials said they put all employees on standby to prepare for potential mass power outages. By Tuesday morning, just a few homes were without power. Georgia EMC reported under 200 metro Atlanta outages as well.

"In an ice storm, customers should be prepared for the possibility of widespread outages and possibly extended outages. We recommend that they do whatever they need to be prepared for that," Georgia Power's Mike Williams told Channel 2's Mike Petchenik.

Hundreds of flights were canceled at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in advance of the winter storm and that continued after the snow and freezing rain passed.

Delta Air Lines canceled 330 flights Sunday and another 1,400 flights Monday. AirTran Airways flight cancellations totaled 330 Monday.

Both airlines are allowing passengers whose flights are canceled to change them without fees.


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