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Georgia still crippled by ice, snow; roads treacherous

Trucker Vernon Cook, 67, had been sitting still on the ramp from Interstate 285 to I-75 south just south of Atlanta for almost 24 hours Tuesday in a long line of tractor trailers that couldn't move because of the icy road. He said he'd seen few Georgia Department of Transportation trucks come by and none of them had spread salt or gravel on the road. (Photo: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

By DORIE TURNER
The Associated Press

1/11/2011

ATLANTA — A winter storm left many parts of Georgia crippled for a second day Tuesday, stranding Greyhound bus passengers in Atlanta without food and closing down government offices and school districts as roads remained coated in snow and ice.

The Georgia Department of Transportation brought in crews from central Georgia to help with treacherous conditions on interstates in Atlanta, shutting down large portions of I-285 throughout the day to spread salt, gravel and deicer in hopes of making the road passable. Cities looked like ghost towns as stores and restaurants remained closed and residents hunkered down at home.

Gov. Nathan Deal urged drivers to stay off the road.

"I want to reiterate, if you do not need to be on the roads please, do not go out and attempt to drive, he said. "The road conditions are not going to cleared up immediately."

Trucker Vernon Cook, 67, had been sitting still on the ramp from Interstate 285 to I-75 south just south of Atlanta for almost 24 hours Tuesday in a long line of tractor trailers that couldn't move because of the icy road. He said he'd seen few Georgia Department of Transportation trucks come by and none of them had spread salt or gravel on the road.

"I've been a trucker for 46 years and have seen nothing like this," said Cook, who was headed with a load of synthetic rubber from Beaumont, Texas, to Fayetteville, N.C. "Georgia DOT is not working, not on this road."

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DOT crews got the trucks moved out on Tuesday afternoon.

DOT workers were hampered by frigid temperatures that caused thawed roadways to refreeze, as well as traffic backed up from tractor trailers stuck on many interstates, said spokeswoman Jill Goldberg. She said crews were doing all they could to clear ice from roadways but they couldn't reach many problem spots because of traffic.

"Our trucks and crews are out there treating every single thing they can get to," Goldberg said.

The Atlanta jail and several local charities delivered food, blankets and bottled water Tuesday to more than 300 passengers stuck at the Greyhound bus station in downtown Atlanta. Many had been stranded there since early Monday.

Some travelers tried to get some sleep in chairs or on the floor.

Greg Walton, 32, of Orlando, Fla., said his bus started losing traction and the battery eventually died when it neared Atlanta. He's been stuck at the station since being ferried there on another bus Monday.

"They bring us here, then they just declared martial law on us," he said, jokingly.

Valencia Dantzler, 39, of Chicago said she had been on a cruise and was en route back to Chicago when her bus was stranded Sunday afternoon in Atlanta. She was still stuck Tuesday. She called McDonald's and local charities to bring food to passengers who were out of money and couldn't buy items from the bus station restaurant.

Dantzler said some local residents came with food after seeing reports of the passengers' plight on TV.

"There was a lady that drove down here from Smyrna today," Dantzler said. "She brought sandwiches for people."

Greyhound spokeswoman Maureen Richmond said all bus service in Atlanta was canceled Monday and Tuesday. She said the company was providing warm buses where passengers could rest and contacting charities to bring in food.

But forecasters say the roads likely won't improve much until the end of the week. Temperatures are expected to remain around freezing during the day Wednesday with a little warming on Thursday, which means ice and snow will melt very slowly, said Jason Deese with the National Weather Service in Peachtree City

"It's not going to be anything that's quick by any means," Deese said.

The world's busiest airport was essentially deserted for a second day as few flights made it in and out of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. More than 2,000 flights were canceled Monday and another 1,500 were canceled Tuesday, airline officials said.

Many school districts — particularly those in metro Atlanta — were closed again Tuesday and some were already making plans to be closed Wednesday. Closed districts ranged from Gwinnett County outside Atlanta to Bibb County in Macon.

Many colleges were closed Tuesday, too, including the University of Georgia, Georgia State University, Georgia Tech and Kennesaw State University.

The Georgia Board of Regents canceled its monthly meeting Wednesday, and the state Board of Education delayed its meeting until Thursday. The Georgia Supreme Court was closed Tuesday for the second day in a row.

Georgia's new governor initially was to deliver his first State of the State address to a joint session of the state Legislature at 11 a.m. Wednesday. That's now been pushed back to 2 p.m. due to the weather, he said.

Deal had to move his inaugural ceremony inside on Monday because of the snowstorm, and canceled a gala celebration.

The Legislature adjourned after convening Monday during the storm. The General Assembly is required by the state constitution to start the legislative session on the second Monday in January.

"We're very fortunate this time because the storm didn't knock most of the power out," said Atlanta city councilman Kwanza Hall, who was sledding with neighbors Tuesday. "So you still have warmth, lights and television. You just can't go anywhere."

Some residents didn't heed warnings to stay off the roads.

David Williams chipped furiously Tuesday at inch-thick gray ice around the tires of his GMC Yukon. He had to walk a mile home to get a shovel and then back to a breakfast spot in Atlanta's Candler Park neighborhood after his SUV got stuck in the parking lot.

"I'm starting to go stir crazy. That's the reason I went out," the 47-year-old accountant said. "I thought I'd go get some breakfast. I thought, 'How bad can it be to drive a mile?' Now I wish I'd walked."

Associated Press writers Kate Brumback, Mike Stewart, David Goldman, Don Schanche Jr. and Errin Haines in Atlanta contributed to this report.

Dorothy Cox of The Trucker staff may be contacted to comment at dlcox@thetrucker.com.