January 30

Where’s my car? Storm cleanup under way in Atlanta

The National Guard is helping drivers recover their abandoned vehicles and provide them with fuel if necessary.

The Associated Press

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Georgia National Guard troops in humvees check on stranded motorists and search abandoned vehicles to give aid to those still stuck on the highway at Roswell Road and I-285 on Wednesday afternoon.

The Associated Press

The Atlanta area was crippled by an ice storm in 2011, and officials had vowed not to be caught unprepared again. But in this case, few closings or other measures were ordered ahead of time.

Among the commuters trapped in the gridlock was Jessica Troy, who described her drive home to the suburb of Smyrna as a slow-motion obstacle course on sheets of ice.

“We literally would go 5 feet and sit for two hours,” Troy said after she and a co-worker spent more than 16 hours covering 12 miles.

Nelson Kickly said he left work in Alpharetta, an Atlanta suburb, around 1 p.m. Tuesday and didn’t get home to Smyrna until 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. On a typical day, Kickly’s commute lasts about 45 minutes. He said the journey has motivated him to take a closer look at his emergency preparedness strategy.

“I had a full tank of gas but if I didn’t, I’d have been freezing cold,” he said. “I was just listening to the radio and you know, I don’t know how I didn’t go crazy.”

After daybreak, a few good Samaritans appeared, going car-to-car with bottles of water and cookies. Traffic started moving again about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.

At Atlanta’s Deerwood Elementary School, librarian Brian Ashley, a dozen of his colleagues, and 35 children spent the night on cots set up in the gym.

The teachers and other staff members opened up the pantry in the cafeteria, making pizza and chicken nuggets accompanied by carrots and apples for dinner. Later, some police officers dropped off sandwiches, and parents living nearby brought food.

“The kids slept peacefully through the night,” Ashley said. “They knew that there were people around them that cared about them.”

However, Ashley said he was surprised officials allowed the schools to open Tuesday in the first place.

“They were forewarned about the weather, and they were ill-prepared,” he said. “If schools were canceled yesterday, we would not have had the catastrophe we did last night and today.”

Even amid the chaos, Atlanta officials insisted that downtown was open for business — at least for a huge meat- and poultry-industry exposition at the Georgia World Congress Center. Roughly 27,000 people from more than 100 countries were expected to attend between Monday and Friday.

City officials arranged for prompt scraping and ice-melting operations on roads around the center.

“Atlanta has a lot at stake with the convention business,” said Charles Olentine, the expo’s general manager. “It is mandatory that visitors to Atlanta feel welcome and attended to.”

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