'Mind-Boggling,' Historic Ice Storm Headed For Deep South

Feb 11, 2014
Originally published on February 11, 2014 6:50 pm

This is not our language. It comes from the forecasters at the National Weather Service, who we have to hope do not say things such as this unless they really mean it:

"Mind-boggling if not historical" ice accumulations are expected Wednesday and Thursday across a wide swath of the Deep South that includes Atlanta, other parts of Georgia, Columbia, S.C., and up to Raleigh/Durham, N.C. The forecasters are warning of a half-inch to an inch of ice.

What's more, from parts of North Carolina up to just south of Washington, D.C., "8 to 10 inches of snow" are expected.

The Weather Service goes on to warn that (the CAPS are from the Weather Service, not us):

"SIGNIFICANT ICE ACCUMULATION WILL PRODUCE DANGEROUS TRAVEL CONDITIONS. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO DRIVE OR WALK. ICE ACCUMULATION WILL DAMAGE TREES AND POWER LINES. IF YOU ENCOUNTER DOWNED POWER LINES ... DO NOT TOUCH THE LINES BECAUSE YOU COULD BE ELECTROCUTED. REPORT DOWNED POWER LINES TO LAW ENFORCEMENT OR THE POWER COMPANY. PREPARE TO REMAIN IN A SAFE SHELTER WITHOUT ELECTRICITY FOR MANY HOURS. OBTAIN VITAL SUPPLIES SUCH AS POTABLE WATER...NON-PERISHABLE FOOD...MEDICINE...BATTERIES...FLASHLIGHTS AND A BATTERY POWERED RADIO."

Consider yourself warned.

We want to repeat that those warnings are from the National Weather Service, not The Weather Channel — which some Two-Way commenters in the past have suggested may overhype some storms.

For its part, The Weather Channel is writing that "if you live in the South, now is the time to prepare for another disruptive, potentially crippling winter storm."

So far, at least, Atlanta seems to have avoided a repeat of last month's disaster — when snow and ice trapped thousands of commuters on the highways. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says "schools and government offices across most of metro Atlanta have opted to close Tuesday and Wednesday, which will help keep many drivers at home. That should allow workers to salt and sand roads they couldn't get to when traffic suddenly came to a standstill during the last storm."

Our colleagues at WABE in Atlanta are following the news as well. Alabama is also in the ice storm's cross hairs.

Update at 8:33 p.m. ET. Emergency Declared; Deaths In Mississippi

Earlier today, President Obama declared an emergency in the state of Georgia, ordering federal help to bolster state and local agencies.

In Mississippi, where northern parts of the state could get 4 inches of snow, the state's Emergency Management Agency says two people have died in separate car accidents due to ice on the road.

More ice, snow, and freezing rain are moving in, says Evelina Burnett with Mississippi Public Broadcasting.

"It is extremely dangerous, not something that Mississippians are used to driving in," says Greg Flynn of the emergency agency. "It's hard enough for the folks up North trying to maneuver out in ice and snow, much less folks in the South. The number one thing we can say is that if you're in an area with frozen precipitation coming down, stay put where you are."

Update at 5:17 p.m. ET. A Graphic:

How painful is this storm going to be for Georgia? Here's a graphic issued by the Weather Service at 3:10 p.m. ET. Note that the service does not normally use this kind of descriptive language:

Update at 4:22 p.m. ET. 2,000 Flight Cancellations:

The Atlanta Journal Constitution is starting to report the first effects of the predicted storm: Delta, whose hub is in Atlanta, has cancelled 573 flights today and it is canceling 1,500 flights scheduled for Wednesday.

The paper adds:

"Southwest Airlines said it is suspending most, if not all, operations in Atlanta tomorrow. That means nearly all Southwest and AirTran Airways flights going to and from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport will be canceled for Wednesday. Southwest and AirTran combined operate more than 160 daily departures from Atlanta and a similar number of arrivals."

Meanwhile, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has issued a state of emergency declaration for 89 counties. Forty-five counties are under federal emergency status.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has declared a state of emergency ahead of the winter storm.

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