By Ed Payne
ATLANTA (CNN) — If you’re an Atlantan making a last-minute grocery run, here’s hoping you love corn and asparagus. Because that’s all that left on most shelves as residents stocked up and hunkered down for what forecasters say will be a massive ice storm.
Gone are the loaves of bread. The quintessential gallons of milk. The cans of beans and the beer.
Just two weeks after a few inches of snow paralyzed Atlanta and embarrassed the state, both residents and government officials say they aren’t taking any chances.
“I think we’re certainly ahead of the game this time and that’s important,” Gov. Nathan Deal told reporters Monday. “We’re trying to be ready and prepared and react as quickly as possible.”
Deal declared a weather-related state of emergency for 45 counties in the state, well before snow, sleet and rain were expected to hit.
The Atlanta Public Schools and a host of other systems across north Georgia announced they would be closed Tuesday and Wednesday.
Even before the first raindrops fell, Jagannathan Santhanam had decided to throw in the towel.
“I will work from home and keep my kids home too,” said the software developer. “It was not fun, especially with family members stranded for more than 24 hours in different places during the last storm.”
Charles Davidson also opted for a similar strategy.
“My wife and I decided a few days ago that we were going to get groceries early in the day, and we’re going to stay in,” he said. “We’re going to stick around for the next two or three days.”
It took Davidson more than 7 hours to get from Georgia Tech in downtown Atlanta to his home in Marietta, a northwest suburb.
Because this is an ice storm, officials are especially concerned.
The storm in late January dumped 2.6 inches on metropolitan Atlanta and shut down the city.
This storm has the potential of knocking out the power grid.
“When you’re talking about the amount of ice we’re looking at, it’s catastrophic,” Aaron Strickland, Georgia Power’s storm center manager, told reporters. “What will happen is that the ice will build up on trees, trees will come down and take down the power lines. … So it is an event that we are extremely fearful of, but we’re preparing (by) bringing in outside help at this time.”
Snow, sleet and rain are in the forecast through Wednesday morning as temperatures plunge to the 30s. By Wednesday, ice on the roads could make driving “hazardous or impossible,” forecasters from the National Weather Service warned.
The city’s northern suburbs could get 1 to 2 inches of snow, with up to 8 inches blanketing the northeast Georgia mountains.
Because of last month’s debacle in handing the winter weather, much of the focus has been on Georgia, but ice and snow will threaten large chunks of the Deep South, from Texas to the Carolinas.
The storm also could bring snow as far north as Pennsylvania and New Jersey — areas more accustomed to the wintry mix.
The system was taking its toll on air travel across the region.
Airlines announced about 900 flight cancellations on Tuesday, ahead of the storms. The greatest concentrations, according to Flight Aware.com, are in airports in Atlanta, Dallas and Charlotte, North Carolina.
Governor advises ‘extreme caution’
Still for Georgia, this storm is the first test for a 32-member severe weather task force created after the January 28 storm. The group is taking a more proactive approach.
Deal told reporters Monday that the state was doing everything it could.
“We are making every effort to be prepared for these events, and I would simply say that we should all individually use extreme caution,” he said.
When the storm struck two weeks ago, traffic gridlock occurred almost instantaneously as commuters fled Atlanta en masse. Thousands of school children across northern Georgia spent the night in schools, and countless motorists endured 20-plus hour commutes, if they were lucky enough to get home at all.
At Monday’s press conference, the governor urged the driving public to be careful. He spoke at a state Department of Transportation facility that was gearing up for inclement weather.
Snowed Out Atlanta, the Facebook group where Georgia residents asked for and offered help during the last storm, was ramping back up Monday.
The forum posted alerts about school closings and the possibility of power outages and tips about how to prepare for the storm.
And there were also — shall we say — more practical tips.
One featured a drift packed with a wide variety of brews.
Says the caption: “The best part about snow is that it keeps my beer extra cold.”
There’s nothing like a silver lining.
CNN’s Marlena Baldacci, Jason Hanna, Catherine E. Shoichet and Ralph Ellis contributed to this report.
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