President Obama declared a state of emergency in Georgia on Tuesday as the southern state awaited what the National Weather Service called a potentially "crippling" ice and snow storm "of historical proportions."
The roads in Atlanta, usually clogged with traffic, were unusually quiet at midday Tuesday as students and workers stayed home to await a storm that could potentially knock out power in some areas for days.
"Do not wait to begin making plans for this significant weather event!!" the National Weather Service said in an online alert, which warned of more than 7 inches of snow in northeast Georgia and more than half an inch of ice in the eastern part of the state.
The storm was expected to extend as far west as Texas before moving up the Eastern Seaboard on Wednesday.
Georgia state officials began preparing for the storm Monday, still stung by allegations that they mishandled a snowstorm two weeks ago that gridlocked the Atlanta area with just 1 to 3 inches of snow and left some drivers trapped in their cars for more than 24 hours.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, in a Tuesday statement, said he had asked the federal government for emergency generators in anticipation of power outages and also expanded an earlier emergency declaration to now cover 88 of Georgia's 159 counties.
Although the streets in Atlanta were left relatively bare by a Monday night snow dusting, the state's Department of Transportation, taking no chances, urged drivers in Atlanta and northern Georgia "to refrain from all but absolutely necessary driving" until at least midday Thursday.
In preparation on Monday, grocery stores in the Atlanta area were slammed with residents eager to stock up on supplies and avoid a replay of the massive traffic disaster that turned the city into a national punch line at the end of January.
Fruit and breakfast foods were popular. So were wines. One young man at a Sam's Club commanded a shopping cart packed with at least eight cases of Bud Light and Corona beers.
"The water was basically all gone," Amana Abdul-Jabbaar, 30, told the Los Angeles Times in a phone interview after visiting a Kroger in Sandy Springs, where lines were so long that it took 25 minutes to check out in the express lane. "There were a lot of people in the store like it was Armageddon; they were stocking up on absolutely everything."
Kenisha Robertson, 36, of Sandy Springs was planning to keep her kids home even before Atlanta-area schools announced closures for Tuesday and Wednesday. (In the last storm, it took her more than 10 hours to make a drive that normally takes 15 minutes.) At her local Publix, Robertson fought the crowds to buy 4 gallons of water.
"The eggs were gone, bread, milk," said Robertson, ticking off a list of what people were hunting for, which included vegetables and dog food. "The frozen pizza was gone!"
Karen Louis, 42, of Roswell, who was struck in traffic for 14 hours in the last storm, told The Times "a lot of people have changed their approach this time; no one wants to get caught out in it."
She added, "Of course, Murphy's Law, nothing will happen, and all of us will be sitting at home and we'll be mad at ourselves when nothing happens, and we'll be a laughingstock again."
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