Something Winter This Way Comes: The South Braces For Storms

A debilitating winter storm is creating havoc across the Deep South on Wednesday. As much as a foot of snow is expected in Georgia and the Carolinas. Ice will also be a problem: Forecasters say that up to an inch of it will coat roads and power lines. Jim Burress of member station WABE reports from Atlanta that hundreds of thousands of people are without electricity.

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

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And I'm Robert Siegel.

The Deep South is in a big mess today. Forecasters are using words like historic, catastrophic, and unprecedented to describe the winter storm that's hitting the Southeast. Thousands of flights have been canceled today and tomorrow, and hundreds of thousands of people are without power. Some parts of Georgia could see a foot of snow and an inch of ice. Jim Burress, from member station WABE in Atlanta, reports people there have been preparing for days.

JIM BURRESS, BYLINE: By the time this public supermarket closed last night in southeast Atlanta, shelves were barren. No bread, little milk, and if you wanted firewood, you should've been here days ago. What was a cold rain overnight started falling as freezing precipitation by daybreak. It sounded like a waterfall blanketing the city.

You have just a second to give me your thoughts on what this weather is like?

KEVIN MAYS: I think it's wonderful. I haven't seen snow in about at least two years. I've been living in L.A.

BURRESS: 53-year-old Kevin Mays wanted to take in this unusual seen. So he strapped on his boots and walked to a nearby gas station, the only business open within sight.

MAYS: I'm out enjoying this so...

(LAUGHTER)

BURRESS: What are your plans for the next few days?

MAYS: Stay in, do some work.

BURRESS: What is a snow day for Mays and most Atlantans is a work day for road crews, police, EMTs, and officials at all ranks. Marie Garrett is city manager for Brookhaven.

MARIE GARRETT: Last night, we had a little bit of a lull for a number of hours, so that gave us an opportunity to have our crews rest and get ready and to be launched in the middle of the night.

BURRESS: Two weeks ago, two inches of snow paralyzed the city when millions of residents left work and school all at once. People fled on foot after being stuck in their cars for eight, 10, sometimes 12 hours. Today, there are cars almost nowhere. Georgia Governor Nathan Deal took a lot of heat for what critics say was poor planning. This time, he declared a state of emergency days in advance and asked residents to stay home from work. Today, Deal thanked Georgians for cooperating.

GOVERNOR NATHAN DEAL: From all indications but that I have observed and from reports I'm receiving from all over the state, Georgians have heeded the warning and they are staying home and staying off the roadways. And that is appreciated by all of us who are trying to keep everybody safe.

BURRESS: As ice accumulates across much of the state, the concern is the loss of electricity. The numbers have been changing by the hour and hundreds of thousands of people are in the dark. To get power restored, utilities have brought in extra workers, and the National Guard is on hand to help with debris removal. Eleven state parks are open to provide shelter. The snow and ice are expected to continue falling through tomorrow morning. For NPR News, I'm Jim Burress in Atlanta.

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