The winter storm we've been hearing oh so much about is expected on Wednesday to blanket metro Atlanta in ice and has the potential to cause power outages. If your lights go out or you simply need a place to warm up or spend the night, the city is opening several recreation centers and directing stranded motorists to fire stations and police precincts to stay warm.
The locations, some of which are specifically welcoming pets, will remain open until conditions improve. Atlanta Police officers will be on hand. And the city kindly requests that you leave alcohol, knives, guns, and other weapons at home.
To report icy conditions, call 404-330-6333. If you lose power, call Georgia Power at 1-888-891-0938.
After the jump, the rundown from City Hall. Here's additional information about what the city's doing during the storm.
Obama's decision authorizes the use of federal funds to help state and local officials better respond to the winter blast of snow, sleet, and ice. Earlier this morning, the National Weather Service warned that the storm could become a "catastrophic event" that reaches "historical proportions", including up to one-inch of ice throughout metro Atlanta's streets. The weather system is expected to hit the city sometime tonight.
In a statement, a White House spokesperson writes:
The President's action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in the counties of Banks, Barrow, Bartow, Carroll, Catoosa, Chattooga, Cherokee, Clarke, Cobb, Dade, Dawson, DeKalb, Douglas, Elbert, Fannin, Floyd, Forsyth, Franklin, Fulton, Gilmer, Gordon, Gwinnett, Habersham, Hall, Haralson, Hart, Jackson, Lincoln, Lumpkin, Madison, Murray, Oconee, Oglethorpe, Paulding, Pickens, Polk, Rabun, Stephens, Towns, Union, Walker, Walton, White, Whitfield, and Wilkes.
Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency. Emergency protective measures, limited to direct federal assistance, will be provided at 75 percent federal funding.
W. Craig Fugate, Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security, named W. Michael Moore as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area.
Earlier today, Gov. Nathan Deal expanded the state's emergency declaration from 45 to 88 counties. The General Assembly has already adjourned until next Monday and non-essential state workers have been sent home today.
"On behalf of Georgians, I appreciate the president's quick response to my request. I asked last night for federal assistance in this storm response," Deal said in a statement. "My primary request to the president was for generators in the case of power outages. The federal declaration makes those available, but it also allows us to ask for other supplies, such as food, blankets and commodities, as needs develop."
Deal will provide another update at 3 p.m. on the state's response to the winter storm.
A poll conducted by the Hicks Evaluation Group, which spoke with 1,114 registered metro voters, showed that Gov. Nathan Deal (15 percent), Mayor Kasim Reed (3.5 percent), Georgia Department of Transportation (9.3 percent), Georgia Emergency Management Agency (11 percent), and schools (10.8 percent) split the rest of the blame for the massive gridlock that ensnared the metro region. About half of the poll's respondents say they weren't directly impacted by the storm.
"Voters recognized that this is systemic problem not an individual problem," said pollster Fred Hicks. Judging by the poll's results, voters viewed the lackluster winter storm preparation to be a collective failure rather than the responsibility of one individual.
In addition, 50 percent of the poll's repondents said opposed a 1-cent tax to fund transportation. The post-storm response to the tax proposal surprised Hicks.
"If an event of this magnitude does not move voter attitudes, I cannot imagine what will," he said.
We've embedded the poll's findings after the jump:
In the meantime, emergency crews will give people a lift back to their abandoned cars and trucks, including free gas and a jump start, if necessary. The chance to thank - or yell - at a state worker along the way about disastrous snow planning could be a free bonus.
Atlanta officials won't immediately tow abandoned vehicles within city limits, but Fulton County workers are already removing some vehicles, according to county spokespeople.
Whether on the state highways, city thoroughfares, or county streets, many vehicles have been moved out of travel lanes to the nearby roadside. Don't expect your car to be exactly where you left it.
For safety reasons, aim to fetch your car before nightfall. Be sure to drive carefully as melting snow and thawing ice is expected to freeze over again tonight.
As metro Atlanta tries to make its roadways stop looking like the opening credits of a "Walking Dead" episode, here's who to contact for help:
After 9 p.m. tonight, the Georgia State Patrol will begin towing any and all abandoned vehicles state troopers spot on the interstates. To get a free ride to your vehicle and roadside assistance, there are two staging areas depending on where you bailed out earlier this week.
Motorists who left their cars on I-20 and I-285 West should go to the West Lake MARTA Station parking lot, located at 80 Anderson Ave. in Atlanta.
Commuters who abandoned their vehicles on I-75, the top end (northern) area of I-285 and the Downtown Connector (I-75/I-85 interchange) should head to the Mount Paran Church's parking area, which is located at 2055 Mount Paran Road in Atlanta.
Either way, bring your car keys and driver's license. If your vehicle already was towed for emergency reasons, officials can check a database and tell you where to find it.
If you discover your car was towed off the interstate after 9 p.m. tonight, call Georgia's traffic hotline at 5-1-1 to receive help.
The free rides to abandoned vehicles are being provided by GSP, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, National Guard troops, and the Department of Transportation's HERO roadside rescue unit.
If you left your car on Fulton's streets and are unable locate it, call the county's non-emergency hotline at 404-730-7911. You can also try S&W Towing at 404-622-8360.
If you left your vehicle in another area or are still having trouble finding it, call GDOT at 877-694-2511.
The 15-year resident, who regular CL readers might remember from a 2012 article about Crawford's efforts helping to organize the East Atlanta Beer Festival, works in organized effectiveness consulting. She joined the SnowedOutAtlanta Facebook group yesterday early on when it had less than 300 members. Crawford soon realized the offers of help were collecting too quickly and getting buried.
"[E]ven then the velocity of posts was far too rapid to effectively match shelter resources with shelter needs," she says. "I knew that adding a location view was critical, and that whatever it was needed to be user-generated so that it could scale as demand increased - ergo a public Google Map plus a .jpeg to illustrate how people could add to the map. Then it was just a matter of getting folks to the content and to share their information there."
Since then the map bloomed into a metro-wide tool that helped connect people in need with Good Samaritans.
"It has, in the middle of all this cold and misery, been the most heart-warming thing," she says. "It really does take a village. And, people are inherently awesome."
Gov. Nathan Deal and Mayor Kasim Reed have urged Atlanta residents to stay home today following a snowstorm that ensnared thousands in gridlock, left many people stranded overnight, and prevented some from reaching their homes nearly 20 hours later.
As winter storm Leon (yes, Leon) arrived yesterday afternoon, government offices, businesses, and schools closed up shop early - clogging the city's icy and slippery roads. A massive gridlock ensued that resulted in mind-boggling commutes that lasted well into last night and this morning. It forced many drivers to abandon their vehicles in search of overnight shelter in people's homes, chain stores, and fire departments.
At a press conference last night, state officials reported that more than 900 car accidents and 100 injuries had occurred in metro Atlanta area due to a worse-than-expected snowstorm. Deal, who yesterday declared a state of emergency in Georgia, announced that he had activated the National Guard to help extract motorists stuck in extremely precarious situations. Reed added that no fatalities had been reported within the city limits, but encouraged people to stay off the roads for another day.
"The help that we need is for everyone to stay home," Reed said. "[We have] a ton of work to do in terms of getting the city and the state back running. We need to have access to the streets in order to [do treatment]."
Before the snow fell, Reed's office said that Atlanta's Department of Public Works pre-treated priority bridges and roads yesterday morning. In total, the city had 30 spreaders, 40 snow plows, and 700 tons of sand and mix.
Reed took responsibility for urging much of the entire city to travel home at the same time. Those instructions, he said, led to a "very challenging" traffic situation - one that stranded countless drivers and even forced one pregnant woman to give birth on I-285. But he also emphasized that the city and state had coordinated efforts far quicker than their 2011 snowstorm response that shut Atlanta down for days.
An unknown number of kids spent the night at Atlanta Public Schools and Fulton County Schools. Around midnight, APS told CBS Atlanta that approximately 50 students were still on school buses. According to the governor, troopers had been sent to schools where children and teachers were still stranded.
There are some students still at schools," Fulton County Schools spokeswoman Susan Hale told CL last night. "Parents have been contacted to come get them and staff will stay as long as needed. We have provisions for this. The school nutrition staff have extra food on hand and students will be fully supervised."
Atlanta and Georgia government offices will be closed today due to the snowstorm's effects. MARTA spokesperson Lyle Harris says the agency has suspended bus service and will have plenty of train delays. The Georgia Department of Transportation has also posted a lengthy list of impassable roads on its Facebook page.
City Hall official encourage residents to call 404-330-6333 to report road conditions or 404-546-6813 about downed trees and limbs. The mayor's office has scheduled press conferences at 10 and 11:30 a.m. about the response efforts.
The AJC has provided free access to today's paper online (complete with the headline "Frozen in Place"). Meanwhile, WSB-TV will likely continue to have just as many correspondents back in the field today (14, to be exact).
UPDATE, 11:10 a.m.: A few minutes ago, Reed asked people to stay off the roads to allow city and state workers to continue cleaning up Atlanta's streets. He said that no deaths were reported and that nearly 800 accidents happened within the city's limits.
"We're trying to respond fast," Reed said. "What I'm thinking of every single moment is how to get people out of their cars. What I'm thinking of every single moment is making sure that the hospitals are operational. What I'm thinking of every single moment is making sure we have equipment."
Within four hours yesterday, he said Atlanta officials were collaborating with Georgia Department of Transportation, Georgia National Guard, and state troopers. Compared to the rest of the region, the mayor insisted that Atlanta was "doing a better job" than other Southern cities.
He also said kids stranded at APS schools were being protected by additional police officers and had been fed meals. "Hold off on trying to get to them," he urged parents.
Children and teachers remain stuck at least eight different schools - including more than 400 at North Atlanta High School. Atlanta Police Department Chief George Turner said that getting those kids home would be a top priority throughout today.
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