ATLANTA, January 29, 2014 — Metro Atlanta and North Georgia on Tuesday were paralyzed by an estimated two inches of snow, an embarrassing turn of events for city that touts itself as an economic player on the world stage.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency, a symbolic declaration that did nothing to help the thousands of motorists stranded on the region’s roads for hours and unable to move any distance in any reasonable amount of time. The governor also called in the National Guard.
The city’s roads turned to gridlock by about 1 p.m. as panicked masses tried to navigate to any number of destinations. It was quickly apparent government officials at all levels were unprepared to respond to the weather.
By 10 p.m., highways and other thoroughfares remained parking lots as the moisture on the road turned to ice. Social media wasted no time comparing the situation to The Walking Dead television show, which is coincidentally filmed in the vicinity.
“Many parts of our state have experienced heavy sleet and snowfall, and in the metro areas we’re experiencing traffic jams caused primarily by heavy volume after the quick onset of the winter storm,” Deal said in a statement. “Unfortunately, traffic is delaying the ability of crews to treat highways all across the state.
“I know many people are trying desperately to pick up their children or simply to get home, and I hope they can get to safe, warm stopping point soon,” Deal added. “Once at your destination, if at all possible, please stay off the roads until conditions improve. State DOT crews will work around the clock to get roads clear; in addition, the National Guard, the Department of Public Safety and GEMA will work to get the state back to normal as quickly as possible.”
Businesses, churches, government offices and schools closed early on Tuesday, sending people by the thousands to an early commute. The commute, which can be frustrating on a good day, quickly turned unbearable to many.
“People are panicking trying to get home and it’s causing worse problems,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution quoted Karlene Barron, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Transportation, as saying.
While the metro area and much of the state may only seem small amounts of snow, ice may cause more problems overnight and in the morning.
“The snowfall amounts are going to matter very little in this situation because of the ice potential,” The Associated Press quoted Jason Deese, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Peachtree City, as saying. “Some parts of the state may end up seeing the greatest impact just because they get more ice than snow.”