Thursday, January 30, 2014

Winter Storms Causing Traffic Mayhem in Atlanta and Alabama .....Atlanta ice storm: mayor under fire as thousands stranded City's mayor criticized for response to storm that has trapped hundreds of children in schools and created huge traffic jams ....... never underestimate the ability of even just two inches of ice on untreated highways to " Unleash the Kraken " of traffic mass mayhem - lesson hopefully learned in Atlanta !

Atlanta ice storm: mayor under fire as thousands stranded

City's mayor criticized for response to storm that has trapped hundreds of children in schools and created huge traffic jams
Atlanta traffic grinds to a halt after winter storm
Atlanta traffic grinds to a halt after winter storm. Photograph: ZUMA/Rex Features
A rare ice storm has turned Atlanta into a slippery mess, stranding thousands for hours on frozen roadways and raising questions about how city leaders prepared for and handled the cold snap that slammed the US south.
The storm, which has killed at least seven people, on Wednesday swept over a region of about 60 million largely unaccustomed to ice and snow – stretching from Texas through Georgia and into the Carolinas – with forecasts of more freezing weather on Thursday.
Overnight temperatures in the Atlanta region are expected to remain well below freezing, with temperatures in the US south-east dropping into the teens Fahrenheit (-10C to -7C) on Thursday. That could hinder efforts to clear ice-covered roads and abandoned cars that litter the region.
Georgia officials said on Wednesday that the real progress in cleaning up the region would not come until after the icy roads begin to thaw, which could happen around midday on Thursday, meteorologists said.
The mayor of Atlanta, Kasim Reed, came under fire for his response to a storm that trapped hundreds of children in schools overnight, some without provisions, and created traffic jams stretching for miles on roads coated with 2in (5 cm) of snow.
"Folks are angry with the mayor of Atlanta, with the governor," said Flavia DiCesare, 54, who spent the night in her office at Cox Enterprises in Atlanta, about 30 miles from home.
The mayor said schools, businesses and government offices were partly to blame for sending all the workers home just as the storm was rolling in.
"During the day, we have a million to 1.2 million people in this city and all those people were out in very bad weather. It hampered our ability to get our equipment on the ground and to prepare our roads for that," Reed told a news conference.
"The error – and we have shared responsibility for the error – was letting everybody out at once," he said.
The governor of Georgia, Nathan Deal, said all of Atlanta's schoolchildren had been safely returned to their families by Wednesday evening, with help from the National Guard and state patrol.
Deal had earlier angered many – including local meteorologists – when he described the storm late on Tuesday as "unexpected".
The comments prompted a sharp reaction. In a blog published on Wednesday, the president of the American Meteorological Society, J Marshall Shepherd, defended local weather forecasters, declaring "the Atlanta forecast was very good".
The one-day snowfall of 2.6in (6.6cm) ranked as the 20th heaviest in Atlanta, which has recorded a daily snowfall of an inch or more 55 times since 1928, according to the National Weather Service.About 800 traffic accidents were reported in the city, but there were no serious injuries, officials said. At least five deaths in Alabama and two in Georgia were blamed on the weather.
Latasha Wade, 38, said she was awaiting word of her 31-year-old brother, last heard from Tuesday night after his car was stranded in Atlanta.
"I don't know if he's laying out in the snow or what," she said. "It's the most hurtful thing because I don't know anything that's going on with my brother."
The storm took a toll on air travel across the region, with more than 2,600 US flights cancelled and hundreds of others delayed, according to flight tracking website
Nicole Lynch, 22, a student at Kennesaw State University, was among the Atlanta motorists who found themselves stuck in frustrating traffic snarls.
"They should have at least warned any sort of road crew, or taken some precautions. They should have cancelled school a lot sooner than they did," Lynch said. "It's a lot of shoulda, coulda, wouldas."
A Facebook page called Stranded Motorists Help Jan 28, 2014, which has more than 10,000 members, amassed entries from frustrated drivers and volunteers trying to come to their aid after the day-long gridlock in the Atlanta metro area.
Rachel Richter, 30, said she finally abandoned her car after sitting in a traffic jam for six hours.
"It was more the frustration that it was just complete gridlock. Nothing was moving at all," she said. "You moved like an inch in two hours."

Atlanta weather | Thursday afternoon warm-up should melt snow, ice

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Another brutally cold morning is on the way for Thursday.
“With clear skies, calm winds, and snow on the ground, expect lows of 8 to 14 degrees,” chief meteorologist Glenn Burns with Channel 2 Action News said Wednesday night.
But two days after a winter storm that has brought metro Atlanta to a halt, some of the frozen mess should finally melt, Burns said.
That can’t come fast enough for people whose commutes lasted eight hours or more, students and teachers who spent the night at school, or even those cooped up at home since late Tuesday morning. Alicia Jones spent 16 hours in her car with her 2-year-old daughter before her car ended up off the road and she had to call 911.
“I don’t ever want to see snow again,” Jones said Wednesday night. “And if I do, I’ll be smart enough to tell my job, ‘I’m leaving.’”
After a cold start Thursday morning, temperatures will climb to around 40 degrees, Burns said. With at least seven or eight hours of above-freezing temperatures in the forecast, the sunshine should melt away most of the frozen precipitation that has caused so many problems for motorists and law enforcement.
Still, “Snow Jam 2014” is not over yet. Here’s what to expect Thursday:
    • Roads: It’s very likely that icy patches will linger Thursday morning, continuing to make some roads treacherous. But crews will continue to work overnight to get roads in shape, according to state officials. Get updates on the roads where you live from local police agencies, such as through their Facebook pages, before heading out. Also, check the Georgia Department of Transportation website for updates on the interstates. If possible, wait until after noon to drive.
    • Vehicles: If you were forced to abandon your vehicle, Thursday should be the day you can get it back. But it may not be in the same place you left it. Some vehicles had to be moved or towed to clear roadways, officials said. Late Wednesday, GDOT spokeswoman Natalie Dale said several state agencies will work together to return people to their stranded vehicles. People who left their vehicles on I-20 and I-285 west should report to the Westlake MARTA station (parking area), 80 Anderson Ave. SW,Atlanta, at 10 a.m. Thursday. Those who left their vehicles on I-75, the top end of I-285 and the Downtown Connector (I-75/I-85) should report to Mount Paran Church (parking area), 2055 Mount Paran Road, Atlanta, also at 10 a.m. “We’re bringing the gas and we’re bringing the energy (to recharge dead batteries),” Dale told Channel 2 Action News. “You bring your keys and your driver’s license.”
    • MARTA: Buses were temporarily suspended early Wednesday due to icy roadways, and trains ran slower than normal. MARTA hopes to return as soon as possible to its normal schedule. Check the transit’s website here for updates.
    • Airlines: Delta anticipates flight cancellations at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport through Thursday morning before temperatures increase and conditions improve, a spokeswoman said. Please check your flight status with your airline before going to the airport.
      • Forecast: By Friday afternoon, temperatures should reach the low 50s, according to forecasters. Friday morning, the low will dip into the 20s. But expect well above freezing temperatures for the weekend, when Saturday and Sunday highs will climb into the low 60s.

        Snow, ice send South's flagship city reeling
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        Jan 29, 7:11 PM (ET)By DAVID CRARY and RAY HENRY
        (AP) Richard Uzoma returns to his car after he lost control and abandoned it overnight along with other...
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        ATLANTA (AP) - Thousands of Atlanta students stranded all night long in their schools were reunited with their parents Wednesday, while rescuers rushed to deliver blankets, food, gas and a ride home to countless shivering motorists stopped cold by a storm that paralyzed the business capital of the South with less than 3 inches of snow.
        As National Guardsmen and state troopers fanned out, Mayor Kasim Reed and Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal found themselves on the defensive, acknowledging the storm preparations could have been better. But Deal also blamed forecasters, saying he was led to believe it wouldn't be so bad.
        The icy weather wreaked similar havoc across much of the South, closing schools and highways, grounding flights and contributing to at least a dozen deaths from traffic accidents and a mobile home fire.
        Yet it was Atlanta, home to major corporations and the world's busiest airport, that was Exhibit A for how a Southern city could be sent reeling by winter weather that, in the North, might be no more than an inconvenience.
        (AP) Cody Carpp, left, and Michael Gane, both of Mobile, Ala., walk through Bienville Square as ice...
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        The mayor admitted the city could have directed schools, businesses and government offices to stagger their closings on Tuesday afternoon, as the storm began, rather than dismissing everyone at the same time.
        The result was gridlock on freeways that are jammed even on normal days. Countless vehicles were stranded and many of them abandoned. Officials said 239 children spent Tuesday night aboard school buses; thousands of others stayed overnight in their schools.
        One woman's 12-mile commute home took 16 hours. Another woman gave birth while stuck in traffic; police arrived just in time to help. Drivers who gave up trying to get home took shelter at fire stations, churches and grocery stores.
        One traffic death was reported in Atlanta - that of a man killed in a crash.
        "I'm not thinking about a grade right now," the mayor said when asked about the city's response. "I'm thinking about getting people out of their cars."
        (AP) Bridges are frozen and ice covers downtown Mobile, Ala., as temperatures remain below freezing on...
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        National Guardsmen in Humvees, state troopers and transportation crews delivered food and other relief, and by Wednesday night, Deal said all Atlanta-area schoolchildren were back home with their parents.
        Atlanta was crippled by an ice storm in 2011, and officials had vowed not to be caught unprepared again. But in this case, few closings or other measures were ordered ahead of time.
        Deal, who is up for re-election in November, said warnings could have been posted along highways earlier and farther out Tuesday. But he also fended off criticism.
        "I would have acted sooner, and I think we learn from that and then we will act sooner the next time," Deal told reporters.
        "But we don't want to be accused of crying wolf. Because if we had been wrong, y'all would have all been in here saying, 'Do you know how many millions of dollars you cost the economies of the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia by shutting down businesses all over this city and this state?'"
        (AP) A truck blocks all east-bound lanes of Interstate 285 in Sandy Spring, Ga. after htting an icet...
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        Deal faulted government forecasters, saying they warned that the storm would strike south of Atlanta and the city would get no more than a dusting of snow.
        However, the National Weather Service explicitly cautioned on Monday that snow-covered roads "will make travel difficult or impossible." And around 3:30 a.m. Tuesday, the agency issued a winter storm warning for metro Atlanta and cautioned people not to travel except in an emergency.
        Around the time the traffic jam started, Deal and Reed were at an award ceremony recognizing the mayor as the "2014 Georgian of the Year." Deal spokesman Brian Robinson said the governor left before 1:30 p.m. and was in constant contact with emergency officials.
        Among the commuters trapped in the gridlock was Jessica Troy, who described her commute home to the suburb of Smyrna as a slow-motion obstacle course on sheets of ice.
        "We literally would go 5 feet and sit for two hours," Troy said after she and a co-worker who rode with her finally made it home about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. They spent more than 16 hours in the car, covering 12 miles.
        The standstill gave Troy time to call her parents and send text messages to friends, letting them know she was OK. By 3 a.m. her car was stuck on a freeway entrance ramp. She put it in park, left the heat running and tried to get some sleep.
        "I slept for an hour and it was not comfortable," Troy said. "Most people sat the entire night with no food, no water, no bathroom. We saw people who had children. It was a dire situation."
        After daybreak, a few good Samaritans appeared, going car-to-car with bottles of water and cookies. Traffic started moving again about 8:30.
        At Atlanta's Deerwood Elementary School, librarian Brian Ashley spent Tuesday night with a dozen of his colleagues and 35 children on cots in the gym.
        The teachers and other staff members opened up the pantry in the cafeteria, making pizza and chicken nuggets with carrots and apples for dinner. Later, some police officers dropped off sandwiches, and parents living nearby brought food.
        "The kids slept peacefully through the night," Ashley said. "They knew that there were people around them that cared about them."
        However, Ashley said he was surprised officials allowed the schools to open Tuesday.
        "They were forewarned about the weather, and they were ill-prepared," he said. "If schools were canceled yesterday, we would not have had the catastrophe we did last night and today."
        About 1,000 arrivals and departures were canceled at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
        But even amid the chaos, Atlanta officials insisted that downtown was open for business - at least for a huge meat- and poultry-industry exposition at the Georgia World Congress Center. Roughly 27,000 people from more than 100 countries were expected to attend between Monday and Friday.
        City officials arranged for prompt scraping and ice-melting operations on roads around the center.
        "Atlanta has a lot at stake with the convention business," said Charles Olentine, the expo's general manager. "It is mandatory that visitors to Atlanta feel welcome and attended to."
        Temperatures in Atlanta were forecast to dip as low as 16 Wednesday night, then gradually rise to the mid-50s by Friday.
        Elsewhere in the South:
        - Alabama officials said rescuers and medics in helicopters were flying over hard-hit counties on search-and-rescue missions. State troopers said five people were killed in traffic accidents that may have been weather-related.
        - Amid freezing temperatures in Mississippi, four people - including two small children - died in a mobile home fire blamed on a faulty space heater. The highway patrol said several abandoned vehicles on Interstate 59 near Hattiesburg were broken into.
        - In South Carolina, the Highway Patrol responded to almost 820 collisions statewide between 4 p.m. Tuesday and 4 a.m. Wednesday.
        - Schools across much of North Carolina were closed Wednesday, and some colleges canceled class, including North Carolina State University. The state highway patrol said the weather was a factor in traffic accidents that killed two people.
        - The Virginia coast was blanketed in up to 10 inches of snow Wednesday morning. Tens of thousands of sailors were told to stay away from the region's Navy bases unless they were essential.
        - Ice closed more 20 highways in Louisiana. Normally busy areas of New Orleans were quiet.

        NewsPhoto/Video - January 29, 2014 1:33 pm

        Three inches of snow, some ice and unimaginable mayhem in Atlanta

        In this aerial view looking at I-75 north at Mt. Paran Rd., abandoned cars are piled up on the median of the ice-covered interstate  Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, in Atlanta.  |  AP PhotoIn this aerial view looking at I-75 north at Mt. Paran Rd., abandoned cars are piled up on the median of the ice-covered interstate Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, in Atlanta. | AP Photo
        If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the last day or so, it’s that folks in the Deep South sure can’t handle a little bit of snow and ice. A few inches of the powder have caused pure mayhem in Atlanta, icing over roads, creating treacherous traffic jams and forcing commuters to abandon their cars where they sat.
        Yes, Chicagoans have had to abandon their cars on Lake Shore Drive, but that only happened when we got nearly two feet of snow in 2011.
        Large Snow Storm Roars Through The MidwestCars sit in the northbound lanes of Lake Shore Drive after accidents and drifting snow stranded the drivers in February 2011. | Getty Images
        But in Atlanta, it’s a much different story:
        Knowing what we’ve been through in Chicago this winter, go ahead and enjoy these photos from Atlanta — and be happy you don’t live there.
        Winter WeatherTraffic is snarled along the I-285 perimeter north of the Atlanta metro area on Wednesday. | AP Photo
        APTOPIX Winter Weater GeorgiaA man stands on the frozen roadway as he waits for traffic to clear along Interstate 75 Wednesday in Macon, Ga. | AP Photo
        Winter Weather GeorgiaJesse Hatcher limps away from his crash after he says another motorist caused him to lose control of his car and spin out off I-20 West in Conyers, Georgia. | AP Photo
        Winter Weather GeorgiaA good samaritan on a four-wheeler patrols I-75 south in Atlanta. | AP Photo
        Winter Weather GeorgiaThe snow covered statue of late Georgia Governor and U.S. Sen. Richard B. Russell points the direction for a pedestrian as she makes her way past the state capitol. | AP Photo
        Winter Weather GeorgiaNational Guard Pfc. Josh Krunnker prepares to tow a car in Dunwoody, Ga. | AP Photo
        Winter Weather GeorgiaSunny Walker, a stranded motorist on Interstate 285, holds her two dogs while in her truck Wednesday in Dunwoody, Ga. | AP Photo
        Winter Weater GeorgiaA car sits abandoned in the middle of the Southbound Connector early Wednesday in Atlanta. | AP Photo
        Winter Weather GeorgiaKevin Moore hands out snacks and water to a stranded motorist on Interstate 285 Wednesday in Dunwoody, Ga. | AP Photo
        APTOPIX Winter Weather GeorgiaIn this photo taken with a fisheye lens over the city’s perimeter highway known as “Spaghetti Junction,” the ice-covered interstate system shows the remnants of the winter snow. | AP Photo
        APTOPIX Winter Weater GeorgiaTraffic is at a standstill early Wednesday. | AP Photo
        Winter Weather GeorgiaIn this view looking at I-75 north, motorists get out of their vehicles to chat near abandoned cars along the ice-covered interstate. | AP Photo

        Giving credit where credit is due.....

        Chick-Fil-A to the rescue in Birmingham

        POSTED AT 5:18 PM ON JANUARY 29, 2014 BY 

        Allahpundit has already written about the “traffic apocalypse” in Georgia, but this is a feel-good story to assuage a little of the anxiety of the crisis. The large numbers of people trapped in cars stuck on the highway got one business owner worried — so he sent employees out to deliver free food to make sure their health and spirits stayed buoyed through the ordeal.
        Oh, did I mention that the business owner was a Chick-Fil-A franchisee?
        So when the first snowflakes began to fall, no one paid all that much attention. But then, the flakes kept falling. Before too long folks in places like Hoover and Inverness realized it was much more than a dusting. By that point, it was too late for anyone to do anything.
        Icy interstates and highways soon became clogged with cars and trucks. Thousands of motorists soon found themselves stranded with nowhere to go – including many stuck on Highway 280.
        But a good number of those stranded motorists were able to find shelter in the storm thanks to the kindness and generosity of Chick-fil-A restaurant employees and the restaurant’s owner, Mark Meadows.
        Once the snow started accumulating, Meadows closed the restaurant and sent his staff home. But a few hours later, many of them returned – unable to get to their homes.
        And as long as they were available …
        “We cooked several hundred sandwiches and stood out on both sides of 280 and handed out the sandwiches to anyone we could get to – as long as we had food to give out.”
        The staffers braved the falling snow and ice, slipping and sliding, as they offered hot juicy chicken breasts tucked between two buttered buns. And Chick-fil-A refused to take a single penny for their sandwiches.
        The meal was a gift – no strings attached.
        Lisa De Pasquale concludes:
        Some are always quick to judge religious groups, people and companies when they disagree with them politically, but ignore the charity that a lot of them do.  Also, politics and charity aside, Chick-fil-A has the best fast food.  To quote “Poppy” from Seinfeld, “On this there can be no debate!”
        I’d go with In-N-Out on that score, but today I’m not going to argue.