ATLANTA — With memories of thousands of vehicles gridlocked for hours on icy metro Atlanta highways fresh in their minds, emergency officials and elected leaders in north Georgia were preparing today for another round of winter weather.
Gov. Nathan Deal, who received intense criticism for his response to the Jan. 28 storm that paralyzed the metro area and left motorists stranded in their vehicles overnight, said in a news release Sunday night that he had put emergency response agencies on alert and began significant preparations.
The governor scheduled a news conference for noon today to discuss winter storm preparations and to provide information about when drivers need to be off the roads.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather watch from 7 p.m. today through 7 p.m. Tuesday and a winter storm watch from Tuesday evening through Thursday morning for the metro Atlanta area.
The weather service forecasts that rain Monday night in north Georgia — including the metro area — will change to snow by Tuesday morning and will likely mix with sleet during the day Tuesday, and snow can be expected from Tuesday night through Thursday morning. Snow will likely accumulate on roads making driving conditions hazardous.
In the area around Atlanta, up to an inch of snow can be expected during the advisory period Tuesday, with an additional inch or two of snow and a tenth to a quarter inch of ice possible between Tuesday night and Thursday morning, the weather service says. Farther north, in the mountains, between 1 and 3 inches of snow can be expected during the warning period Tuesday with an additional 2 to 4 inches by Thursday morning.
Emergency officials throughout the area have been urging residents to prepare their homes and vehicles.
State and local officials were widely criticized two weeks ago for what critics have said was a sluggish and inadequate response to the threat of severe weather that left tens of thousands of motorists stuck in their cars for hours and at least 280 students forced to sleep on their school buses because of icy, gridlocked roads.
The governor has apologized and last week announced the formation of a task force to develop recommendations on how the state can be better prepared and better equipped the next time severe weather hits metro Atlanta. He also called for various internal and external reviews and wants a new public alert system for severe weather, similar to what's used for missing and endangered children.