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Hotlanta Braces for the Worst

January 29, 2000

ATLANTA (AP) _ Outside the Georgia Dome, workers unloaded the giant mounds of sand they might need to keep the ramps and entryways from becoming too slick on Super Bowl Sunday.

At the entrance to the Delta Airlines terminal at the airport, a huge scratchpad sitting on an easel spelled out the growing list of flights into Atlanta that had already been canceled.

Only one thing was missing as midnight approached in chilly Atlanta on Friday.


Indeed, it seemed the winter storm making its way across the Southeast was taking on characteristics of the game itself. Sometimes, the buildup is more frenzied than the main event.

``I walked outside earlier today and it was really pretty nice,″ NFL vice president of special events Jim Steeg said, noting cloudy skies, still winds and temperatures in the mid-30s. ``We’re ready for whatever comes. The forecast seems to be changing by the minute.″

Late Friday night, a light mist of freezing rain fell on Atlanta. The National Weather Service backed off on its forecast of snow, but said the freezing rain could continue into Saturday.

If the worst hits, it could be the kind of storm that might normally stop Hotlanta in its tracks.

If anything is still running, however, it figures to be the Super Bowl.

``We feel like we’re prepared,″ Steeg said. ``It’s a matter of flexibility. We need to be able to adjust to circumstances depending on what the weather brings.″

Some of the adjustments have included:

_Rescheduling a rehearsal for the pregame show in the Georgia Dome so both teams could hold their final full practices indoors Friday.

_Stationing workers on the Georgia Dome roof to brush off snow or excess water should it accumulate.

_Making sure all the food and drinks arrive at the stadium early to prevent delivery trucks from having to negotiate slick roads.

_Placing 16 power generators at the Georgia Dome to provide emergency energy should ice and snow knock out power to the downtown area.

James Peters of Georgia Power says downtown Atlanta is networked for power underground.

``It’s very, very rare that an outage occurs,″ Peters said. ``If an outage does occur, we do have contingency plans in place.″

Travelers were searching for backup plans, as well.

Delta canceled four flights from Nashville to Atlanta. Airline officials said they canceled the flights to prevent a worse backlog in case it snowed.

The decision left travel agencies in Tennessee scrambling.

``It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me,″ said Suzette Bertuccelli, manager of Embassy Travel in Nashville. ``They usually don’t cancel until inclement weather hits. We’ve just gotten a couple of calls this morning from people wanting to get protected on another flight.″

She said other airlines were still flying between the two cities, but those flights are completely booked.

In St. Louis, Susan Dibb of Lesterville, Mo., climbed aboard a chartered plane Friday morning and felt fortunate to be on an early flight out.

``I don’t care if it’s got eight inches after we get there because we’re going to the Super Bowl,″ she said. ``I’m very excited.″

Reservation managers at two large downtown hotels, the Hyatt and Marriott, said the number of room cancellations through Friday had been negligible.

The NFL has no plans to redistribute tickets that aren’t picked up.

``The league isn’t really in a position to do that,″ Steeg said. ``Now, if Coke learns that half its group isn’t going to make it in, it’s their decision.″

But Steeg doesn’t anticipate seeing a half-empty Georgia Dome come Sunday.

He recalled the 1987 Super Bowl, when the Giants played the Broncos in Pasadena, Calif., and a giant snowstorm closed airports in the New York area in the days leading up to the game.

``Everyone still made it out there,″ Steeg said. ``Everyone has four days to make it to the game. They don’t have any other meetings to go to until the big one at 6 o’clock Sunday. If they can make it here by then, they’re good. Then, the big issue becomes, what’s the weather going to be like Monday, when everyone is going home?″

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