ATLANTA (AP) — After a rare snowstorm stopped Atlanta-area commuters in their tracks — forcing many to hunker down in cars overnight or seek other shelter — helicopters were being used to spot stranded drivers so rescuers could get food and water to them.
In metro Atlanta, some interstates remained clogged by jackknifed 18-wheelers Wednesday afternoon, more than 24 hours after snow began falling on the city.
Georgia transportation officials were asking semi drivers to avoid the area or use chains on their wheels.
The forecast for the Atlanta area showed little hope of any widespread melting of the snow and ice in the short-term.
Ryan Willis, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service, said Wednesday that "we're going to struggle to get above freezing across most of Georgia today."
Leaders of Atlanta's public transportation system say trains were running on a modified schedule and bus service has been suspended.
Bus service was suspended Wednesday because of unsafe road conditions in the metro Atlanta region, said Lyle Harris, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority.
In Coweta County, at least one motorist died while trying to navigate a hill in snowy and slushy conditions on Georgia Highway 85, the State Patrol said. That driver, 60-year-old Yvonne C. Nash of Griffin, was killed shortly after 1 p.m. Tuesday. The state patrol said low tread on the rear tires of Nash's vehicle contributed to the wreck.
At downtown Atlanta's Glenn Hotel, a blast of cold air rushed in each time the door opened from a snow-blown streetscape that looked more like a scene from Minneapolis.
Bartender Sean Perry lives just 15 minutes from work but it took him 2½ hours to reach the Glenn Hotel on Tuesday night.
Perry, who was able to make it to work, was more fortunate than many.
Chris Kennedy said it took him more than five hours to get to and from a school near his house in the northwest Atlanta suburb of Acworth. The trip there and back would typically take 20 minutes.
By early Wednesday morning, downtown Atlanta appeared deserted except for the brake lights that cast a glow over Atlanta's Downtown Connector.
By early afternoon Wednesday, it was still freezing — 25 degrees — around 1 p.m. Wednesday. Forecasters projected a high of 31 degrees later in the day, before dipping back into the teens across the area overnight.
"We're going to be on a warming trend after today," Willis said, adding that highs on Thursday will be around the upper 30s to lower 40s across north and central Georgia. The projected high temperature for Atlanta on Thursday is around 42 degrees.
A significant warm-up is in store for the weekend. By Sunday, temperatures are expected to approach or exceed 60 degrees in parts of north Georgia and even reach into the 70s across central Georgia, Willis said.
For a second-straight day, the world's busiest airport in Atlanta was leading all other airports in the number of canceled flights. A total of 999 flights Wednesday into and out of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport had been cancelled by mid-afternoon Wednesday, according to the flight tracking service FlightAware.
Closer to the Georgia coast, Savannah at daybreak was mostly just rainy and cold despite a winter storm warning. Temperatures hovered around freezing, enough to cause thin ice to form on plants, metal railings and car windshields.
Savannah's schools, local government offices and some businesses were shut as authorities urged residents to stay home at least until midday to avoid potentially icy roads. Several bridges and overpasses had been closed. The National Weather Service said there was still a chance Savannah could see snow flurries for the first time in four years as temperatures were forecast to stay in the low 30s.
Associated Press writer Russ Bynum in Savannah, Ga., contributed to this report.
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