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Ice Storm Hits Atlanta Area

January 30, 2000

ATLANTA (AP) _ The second ice storm in a week made highways treacherous Saturday, leaving the pavement so slippery in places people couldn’t stand, let alone drive.

Cars slid into police cars and trucks trying to clear the roads, and ice-covered overpasses and interchanges were shut down across the state.

``It just happened so suddenly,″ said state Department of Transportation spokeswoman Kim Law. ``You look out your window and not see any ice on the trees and assume it’s OK. Well, it’s anything but.″

Another storm earlier in the week had knocked out electrical service to thousands of customers across the Southeast. In North Carolina, about 500 customers were still without power Saturday as state emergency management officials prepared for another blast as the storm moved up the East Coast.

More than 20,000 homes lost power as the latest storm moved through Georgia. Icy roads were blamed for a 47-car pileup at the junction of two interstates in downtown Atlanta and 12-car pileup on an interstate a few hours later. Two deaths in the state were also blamed on the ice.

``We’ve had (vehicles) slide into 10 of our officer’s cars,″ said DeKalb County Police spokeswoman Mikki Jones. ``Everyone needs to slow down. We’re seeing people try to drive 70 miles an hour on the interstate.″

Three multi-car pileups were reported on interstates and highways in the Charlotte, N.C., area. Saturday evening, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police began asking drivers to stay off the roads.

Unlike last week’s storm, which dropped 20 inches of snow in parts of North Carolina with little warning, state emergency operations were prepared for the worst.

``We’ve got everybody here,″ Bill Figulski said from the state emergency operations center in Raleigh, N.C. ``Everything’s set in place. We’re just going to sit back now and see what happens.″

About 1,100 National Guard personnel were ready to respond to emergencies during and after the storm, with four-wheel drive vehicles, cargo trucks and emergency fuel trailers set up at five locations across the state.

Storm advisories were posted across South and North Carolina, where residents were still digging out after last week’s record snowfall. The National Weather Service was forecasting accumulations of as much as a half inch of ice in parts of South Carolina by Sunday.

Freezing rain and sleet had already glazed roads in southern West Virginia by Saturday evening. In northeastern Alabama, and ice storm warning remained in effect, and in Arkansas, ice and snow still covered many roads and highways, and the freezing temperatures were expected to continue into Sunday.

A few days earlier, the same storm dropped more than a foot of snow in areas across the Plains and the South and was blamed for three deaths in Arkansas, one in Louisiana and five in Missouri. A 14-year-old boy died in a sledding accident near Memphis, Tenn.

Rick Cantrell and John Schifko hoped to see Atlanta’s sights after driving from St. Louis for the Super Bowl, but watching drivers not used to ice trying to maneuver on the slick pavement made them think again.

``This is child’s play compared to what we get in St. Louis, but the worst hazard is everyone else,″ Cantrell said. ``We saw people going too fast on the interstate and spin out left and right.″

The storm also iced roads in Kentucky on Saturday, forcing police to close a 10-mile section of interstate. ``It’s utter chaos this morning, brother,″ said State Police Sgt. Russ Harney in Richmond.

In Lexington, Ky., Ken Kurtz, 70, and his wife were out shopping when the sleet began.

``We hit the parking lot with clear windows, and by the time we came out 25 minutes later every window was coated with ice,″ Kurtz said.

Temperatures in the 40s were forecast for Super Bowl Sunday in Atlanta.

``Until it does melt off, we are begging people to stay off the roads,″ said Ken Davis of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency. ``We are doing everything we can to get things in order for the game, but Mother Nature may not cooperate.″

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