ATLANTA — Just two weeks ago, Atlanta became a national punch line when a few inches of snow crippled the city. Comedians said the gridlocked highways looked more like a zombie apocalypse than the South’s bustling business hub.
On Monday, officials were quick to act as winter weather zeroed in, determined not to be the butt of jokes like the “Saturday Night Live” parody that referred to the “devil’s dandruff” and “Yankee’s slush.” Before a single drop of freezing rain or snow fell, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for nearly a third of the state, schools canceled classes and workers were told to stay home.
Still, people were skeptical that the state would be better prepared this time.
“I’m not counting on it. I’ve been in Georgia on and off for 20 years. It’s usually the same scenario, not enough preparations and not enough equipment,” said Terri Herod, who bought a large bag of sand and a shovel at a Home Depot. She said her sister told her to also buy kitty litter in case her car gets stuck on an ice patch.
The memories of the Jan. 28 storm were too fresh for some. Students were trapped on buses or at schools and thousands of cars were abandoned along highways as short commutes turned into odysseys. One woman gave birth on a jammed interstate.
In the chaos, though, there were stories of Southern hospitality – people opening up homes and businesses to help the stranded. Officials reported one accident-related death.
The storm could be worse this time. A one-two punch of winter weather was expected for Atlanta and northern Georgia. Rain and up to several inches of snow were forecast Tuesday, followed by sleet and freezing rain Wednesday. Downed power lines and icy roads were a major worry.
Other parts of the South were expected to get hit as well. Alabama, which saw stranded vehicles and had 10,000 students spend the night in schools during the January storm, was likely to get a wintry mix of precipitation. Parts of Mississippi could see 3 inches of snow, and a blast of snow over a wide section of Kentucky slickened roads and closed several school districts.