Life as normal came to an amazing standstill across the Southeast U.S. beginning Sunday night and well into Tuesday afternoon.
A powerful winter storm began to attack the area on Sunday morning bringing warm Gulf moisture over a massive area of colder temperatures across the Deep South. The result was freezing rain, sleet, and several inches of snow in the area. Residents dealt with freezing rain first, then snow, then more freezing rain. Road travel was treacherous at best. Major airlines canceled flights across airports in the Southeast.
Governors declared states of emergency in Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, and North Carolina. Georgia’s newly-elected governor, Nathan Deal, was sworn in a few minutes after midnight on Monday. However, the inaugural celebration planned for Deal later in the day was cancelled completely. The Georgia Legislature was sworn in on Monday as well, and transported with help from state officials.
Hospital workers and administrators in the Atlanta area slept in nearby hotels and worked around the clock with short staffs to care for patients. Power companies were positioned to deal with widespread outages. They relied on crews from out-of-state to deal with any major issues. In central Georgia, several thousand customers in the Macon area were without power. Other outages were reported in the Columbus and Atlanta areas totaling a few thousand in some spots.
Though the snowfall totals didn’t top six inches in most areas, it fell over a region that is unaccustomed to dealing with larger amounts of tricky winter weather. Transportation officials in Georgia asked that salt crews in south Georgia assist with road treatment efforts in the northern part of the state near Atlanta. The state’s largest city was virtually shut down due to a dearth of salt and snow-clearing trucks.
Accidents were rampant across the Atlanta area from late Sunday and into Tuesday afternoon due to icy roads. The Georgia Navigator website listed at least six Code Red accidents at the same time on Monday afternoon. This meant that portions of the freeway were either impassable or shut down completely.
The United States Postal Service, UPS, and FedEx suspended delivery services on Monday and Tuesday in Atlanta. Other freight and shipping operations were unable to make deliveries as well. This has repercussions for the entire nation because Atlanta is a regional hub and shipping point for the Southeast. Much of the U.S. mail that is delivered to the area passes through an Atlanta sorting facility.
Forecasters do not believe parts of the Southeast will thaw out until Friday. Temperatures are barely out of the freezing range. If they peak above freezing, the nights bring lows in the 20s and teens that refreeze roads and recreate dangerous driving conditions. Drivers are asked to stay off of the roads unless travel is absolutely necessary.