AP Photo/David Tulis
Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014 | 11:27 p.m.
ATLANTA — After a rare snow stopped Atlanta-area commuters in their tracks — forcing many to hunker down in cars overnight or seek other shelter — helicopters were being used to spot stranded drivers so rescuers could get food and water to them.
In metro Atlanta, some interstates remained jammed with stuck 18-wheelers Wednesday afternoon, more than 24 hours after snow began falling on the city.
School buses were among the vehicles crawling along local interstates that came to a standstill. As of Wednesday afternoon, though, Gov. Nathan Deal said all metro Atlanta schoolchildren had been safely returned to their parents.
"Last night, we had at least 95 immobile buses," Deal said in a statement. "Even with this progress, work still remains. I encourage people in areas where snow and ice remain to stay off the roads, which state officials are continuing to treat."
Georgia transportation officials were asking semi drivers to avoid the area or use chains on their wheels.
The forecast for the Atlanta area showed little hope of any widespread melting of the snow and ice in the short-term.
Temperatures didn't get above freezing Wednesday, though a warmup was expected in the next few days. Still, temperatures were expected to be in the teens overnight so any moisture on the roads will turn to ice again.
Atlanta commuter trains were running on a modified schedule and bus service was suspended because of unsafe road conditions, said Lyle Harris, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority.
In Coweta County, at least one motorist died while trying to navigate a hill in snowy and slushy conditions on Georgia Highway 85, the State Patrol said. That driver, 60-year-old Yvonne C. Nash of Griffin, was killed Tuesday, and the state patrol said low tread on the rear tires of her car contributed to the wreck.
Georgia State Patrol officials said another fatality was recorded in Henry County. State troopers responded to more than 1,460 crashes between Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday night, and said more than 175 injuries had been reported.
At downtown Atlanta's Glenn Hotel, a blast of cold air rushed in each time the door opened from a snow-blown streetscape that looked more like a scene from Minneapolis.
Bartender Sean Perry lives just 15 minutes from work but it took him 2½ hours to reach the Glenn Hotel on Tuesday night.
Perry at least made it to work, which many didn't.
Chris Kennedy said it took him more than five hours to get to and from a school near his house in the northwest Atlanta suburb of Acworth. The trip there and back would typically take 20 minutes.
By early Wednesday morning, downtown Atlanta was deserted except for the brake lights that cast a glow over Atlanta's Downtown Connector.
A significant warm-up is in store for the weekend. By Sunday, temperatures are expected to approach or exceed 60 degrees in parts of north Georgia and even reach into the 70s across central Georgia, forecasters say.
For a second-straight day, the world's busiest airport in Atlanta was leading all others in the number of canceled flights. A total of 999 flights Wednesday into and out of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International had been canceled by mid-afternoon Wednesday, according to the flight tracking service FlightAware.
Closer to the Georgia coast, Savannah at daybreak was mostly just rainy and cold despite a winter storm warning. Temperatures hovered around freezing, enough to cause thin ice to form on plants, metal railings and car windshields.
Savannah's schools, local government offices and some businesses were shut as authorities urged residents to stay home at least until midday to avoid potentially icy roads. Several bridges and overpasses had been closed. The National Weather Service said there was still a chance Savannah could see snow flurries for the first time in four years as temperatures were forecast to stay in the low 30s.