After run on groceries, Georgians wait for storm - South Texas, Corpus Christi, Coastal Bend

After run on groceries, Georgians wait for storm

Empty Milk Cooler at Kroger in Acworth, GA (Leslie Tripp Holland/CNN) Empty Milk Cooler at Kroger in Acworth, GA (Leslie Tripp Holland/CNN)
  • Georgia's governor says officials are "ahead of the game this time"
  • He declares a state of emergency for 45 counties
  • Atlanta-area schools will be closed Tuesday and Wednesday
  • A winter storm is expected to hit the Southeast through Wednesday or Thursday

By Ed Payne

ATLANTA (CNN) -- If you're an Atlantan making a last-minute grocery run, here's hoping you love corn and asparagus. Because that's all that may be left on most shelves as residents stock up and hunker down for what forecasters say will be a massive ice storm.

Gone are the loaves of bread. The gallons of milk. The cans of beans and beer.

Two weeks after a few inches of snow paralyzed Atlanta and embarrassed the state, both residents and government officials say they aren't taking any chances.

"I think we're certainly ahead of the game this time and that's important," Gov. Nathan Deal told reporters Monday. "We're trying to be ready and prepared and react as quickly as possible."

Deal declared a weather-related state of emergency for 45 counties well before snow, sleet and rain were expected to hit.

The Atlanta Public Schools and a host of other systems across North Georgia announced they would be closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

Even before the first raindrops fell, Jagannathan Santhanam had decided to throw in the towel.

"I will work from home and keep my kids home, too," said the software developer. "It was not fun, especially with family members stranded for more than 24 hours in different places during the last storm."

Charles Davidson also opted for a similar strategy.

"My wife and I decided a few days ago that we were going to get groceries early in the day, and we're going to stay in," he said. "We're going to stick around for the next two or three days."

It took Davidson more than seven hours to get from Georgia Tech near downtown Atlanta to his home in Marietta, a northwest suburb.

Concern about ice's impact on power

Because this is an ice storm, officials are especially concerned.

The storm in late January dumped 2.6 inches on metro Atlanta and shut down the area.

This storm has the potential of knocking out the power grid.

"When you're talking about the amount of ice we're looking at, it's catastrophic," said Aaron Strickland, Georgia Power Co.'s storm center manager. "What will happen is that the ice will build up on trees, trees will come down and take down the power lines. ... So it is an event that we are extremely fearful of, but we're preparing (by) bringing in outside help at this time."

Snow, sleet and rain are in the forecast through Wednesday morning with temperatures in the 30s. By Wednesday, ice on the roads could make driving "hazardous or impossible," forecasters from the National Weather Service warned.

The city's northern suburbs could get 1 to 2 inches of snow, with up to 8 inches blanketing the northeast Georgia mountains.

Because of last month's debacle in handing the winter weather, much of the focus has been on Georgia, but ice and snow will threaten large chunks of the Deep South, from Texas to the Carolinas.

On Monday night, sleet fell in Texas, and as many as 3 inches fell in Arkansas. By Tuesday morning, snow was falling in northern Mississippi, northern Alabama, northern Georgia and northwest South Carolina.

Heavier precipitation is expected Tuesday night and Wednesday.

The storm also could bring snow as far north as Pennsylvania and New Jersey -- areas more accustomed to the wintry mix.

The system was taking its toll on air travel across the region.

Airlines announced about 900 flight cancellations Tuesday ahead of the storms. The greatest concentrations, according to Flight, are in airports in Atlanta, Dallas and Charlotte, North Carolina.

Governor advises 'extreme caution'

Still for Georgia, this storm is the first test for a 32-member severe weather task force created after the January 28 storm. The group is taking a more proactive approach.

Deal told reporters Monday the state was doing everything it could.

"We are making every effort to be prepared for these events, and I would simply say that we should all individually use extreme caution," he said.

When the storm struck two weeks ago, traffic gridlock occurred almost instantaneously as commuters fled Atlanta en masse. Thousands of children across northern Georgia spent the night in schools, and countless motorists endured 20-plus hour commutes, if they were lucky enough to get home at all.

At Monday's press conference, the governor urged the driving public to be careful. He spoke at a state Department of Transportation facility gearing up for inclement weather.

Stocking up

Snowed Out Atlanta, the Facebook group where Georgia residents asked for and offered help during the last storm, was ramping back up Monday.

The forum posted alerts about school closings and the possibility of power outages and tips about how to prepare for the storm.

And there were also -- shall we say -- more practical tips.

One featured a drift packed with a wide variety of brews.

Says the caption: "The best part about snow is that it keeps my beer extra cold."

There's nothing like a silver lining.


CNN's Marlena Baldacci, Jason Hanna, Catherine E. Shoichet and Ralph Ellis contributed to this report.



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