Obama signs emergency declaration for state

Tags: Obama, News
Forecasters said a potentially "catastrophic" winter storm threatened to bring a thick layer of ice to Georgia and other parts of the normally temperate Southeast, causing widespread power outages that could leave people in the dark for days, just weeks after a storm crippled the region.

President Barack Obama declared an emergency in Georgia, ordering federal agencies to help with the state and local response. Nearly 900 flights were canceled Tuesday at airports in Atlanta, Dallas and Charlotte, North Carolina, according to tracking service FlightAware.

Many people heeded the forecasters' dire warnings and stayed home and off the roads of metro Atlanta, leaving the city desolate during what is typically a busy morning commute. While only rain fell in the city, up to 3 inches (76 millimeters) of snow fell in the suburbs.

Quiet streets were a stark contrast to the scene just two weeks earlier when downtown roads were jammed with cars, drivers slept overnight in vehicles or abandoned them on highways. Students camped in school gymnasiums.

When asked to elaborate on the "catastrophic" warning, Brian Hoeth, a meteorologist at the service's southern regional headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, said forecasters were talking about an ice storm that happens only once every 10 to 20 years for the area.

Forecasters predicted crippling snow and ice accumulations as much as three-quarters of an inch (20 millimeters) in area from Atlanta to South Carolina. Wind gusts up to 30 mph (48 kph) could exacerbate problems.

Atlanta has a painful past of being ill-equipped to deal with snowy weather. Despite officials' promises after a crippling ice storm in 2011, the Jan. 28 storm proved they still had many kinks to work out.

Georgia Gov Nathan Deal indicated yesterday that he and other state officials had learned their lesson. Before a drop of freezing rain or snow fell, Deal declared a state of emergency for nearly a third of the state and state employees were told they could stay home. He expanded the declaration Tuesday to more than half the state's counties.

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