Georgia governor advises caution ahead of second rare snowfall
By David Beasley
ATLANTA (Reuters) - Officials across the southeastern United States braced on Monday for a blast of freezing rain, snow and ice, with Georgia's governor advising "extreme caution" and declaring a state of emergency across almost one-third of the state.
The storm is expected to bring a wintry mix to a broad swath of the country stretching from Texas to North Carolina, according to the National Weather Service. It comes two weeks after a 2 inch snowfall brought the Atlanta area to a halt, stranding hundreds of thousands of commuters and leading to intense criticism of local and state officials for failing to prepare.
"Ice is the big danger here," Georgia Governor Nathan Deal told reporters. "We are exercising extreme caution."
Widespread power outages are likely from ice forming on power lines, a problem the state did not face during the storm that hit on January 28.
The amount of ice possible could be "catastrophic," a Georgia Power official told reporters, adding the utility was bringing in extra crews from outside the state.
"The next three days are going to be challenging days," Deal said.
Deal, a Republican up for re-election this year, has admitted the state's response to last month's storm fell short and vowed to take steps to be better prepared.
The governor said he had put the state's National Guard on notice on Sunday that they could be called up to help, and he directed transportation officials to have equipment in place in areas where snow and ice are expected.
The state's new system for notifying residents about hazardous weather is ready and may be used over the next few days, Deal said.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said the city had doubled its ability to salt roads and was coordinating closely with the state and other municipalities after missteps during the previous storm.
"We're going to be in constant contact with the state," Reed said.
Atlanta area schools canceled after-school and athletic events on Monday, and the city school system said it would be closed on Tuesday and Wednesday due to inclement weather.
The weather service said northeast Georgia and the western Carolinas would experience the heaviest precipitation on Wednesday, with snow accumulations of 6 to 8 inches in the mountains.
The largest ice accumulations were expected along the Interstate-20 corridor from Augusta, Georgia, to Columbia and Florence in South Carolina.
North Carolina state transportation officials began salting roadways in the Charlotte region on Sunday in anticipation of the storm.
Forecasters said widespread travel delays were likely by mid-week across the region.
(Reporting by David Beasley; Additional reporting and writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Scott Malone, Stephen Powell and Nick Zieminski)