Snow and ice from rare winter storm paralyzes the south

ATLANTA (AP) - Deal said the Georgia State Patrol was also sending troopers to schools where children remain stranded after spending the night in classrooms. His statement said state transportation crews were continuing to treat roads and bring gas to stranded motorists.

Deal says the National Guard and police will be escorting home the thousands of children who had to spend last night in their schools, after a winter storm coated roads and highways across the South with ice and brought traffic to a standstill in the Atlanta area. There were some school buses among the vehicles trapped overnight, but Deal says all students aboard them have been rescued.

In downtown Atlanta, a sea of red brake lights remained at a standstill along a dozen lanes of the Downtown Connector shortly before dawn Wednesday.

It wasn't known how many students were still aboard school buses stuck on roadways in the pre-dawn hours Wednesday, but a couple of the children were Atlanta Public Schools students.

"We have two students on buses this morning," Steve Smith, associate superintendent with Atlanta Public Schools, said in a telephone interview with WSB-TV around 6 a.m. Wednesday. Both of those students were on the same bus, Smith said.

Nearly 50 work crews early Wednesday were focusing on metro roadways "and are hopeful Wednesday will bring a full recovery," the Georgia Department of Transportation said in an emailed update at 6 a.m. Wednesday.

"Clean-up efforts continue on metro Atlanta freeways and other roads in north and central Georgia and significant progress is being made," state transportation officials said in the Wednesday morning update.

Atlanta schools and companies dismissed students and workers around the same time when the snow began falling Tuesday afternoon, jamming roads with a sudden crush of traffic and resulting in gridlock, state transportation officials said in the morning update.

Atlanta city officials were providing food, blankets and cots to stranded students and travelers at the city's Greyhound bus station on the south edge of downtown, city officials said in an update on the storm Wednesday morning. The city also opened a temporary shelter at a recreation facility in southwest Atlanta that can house up to 100 people.

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 shortly after 1 p.m. Tuesday. The state patrol said low tread on the rear tires of Nash's vehicle contributed to the wreck.

At the Glenn Hotel in downtown Atlanta, the blast of cold air that rushed through each time the door opened and the snow-blown streetscape outside made it appear more like a scene from Minneapolis than Atlanta on Wednesday night.

Bartender Sean Perry lives just 15 minutes from work but it took him 2½ hours to reach the Glenn Hotel Tuesday night.

Perry, who was able to make it to work, was more fortunate than many.

Chris Kennedy said it took him more than five hours to get to a school near his house in the northwest Atlanta suburb of Acworth. The trip typically takes 10 minutes.

By early Wednesday morning, downtown Atlanta seemed deserted except for the brake lights that cast a glow over Atlanta's Downtown Connector.

For a second-straight day, the world's busiest airport in Atlanta was leading all other airports in the number of canceled flights. By sunrise Wednesday morning, a total of 485 flights in and out of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport were canceled, according to the flight tracking service FlightAware.

Along the Georgia coast, Savannah remained under a winter storm warning Wednesday morning, though the weather at daybreak was mostly just rainy and cold. Temperatures hovered at 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 closed as authorities urged residents to stay home at least until midday to avoid potentially icy roads. Several bridges and overpasses had been shut down. 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.


Associated Press writer Russ Bynum in Savannah, Ga., contributed to this report.

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