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Snow, ice strand Atlanta commuters, school kids

QuestCinq.com
Just a few inches of snow brings Atlanta-area to a halt.

ATLANTA — The Georgia National Guard was out in force Wednesday to rescue motorists trapped all night in their cars on Atlanta’s icebound freeways from a harsh winter storm that forced many drivers to abandon their cars outright and left children to camp out in their schools.

Some commuters pleaded for help via cellphones while still holed up in their cars, while others trudged miles home, abandoning their vehicles outright.

Highways were littered with abandoned cars as commuters bailed out, some seeking warmth at shelter at 17 Home Depot that opened their doors to take in wayward motorists.

Police in suburban Atlanta say one of their own helped assist the safe delivery of a baby girl on a gridlocked interstate Tuesday afternoon after snow and ice brought traffic to a crawl.

Sandy Springs Police Capt. Steve Rose told The Associated Press the baby girl was safely delivered around 5:20 p.m. Tuesday amid gridlocked traffic on Interstate 285. A traffic officer arrived with only minutes to spare before the infant arrived.

“Fortunately he had his emergency lights on and people got out of his way,” Rose said. “The delivery was pretty flawless.”

At Atlanta’s East River Elementary School, about 100 students spent the night on mats on the floor, covered with coats and blankets. The children got caught out when school buses were unable to pick them up.

Some relieved parents, who spent the night trying to reach their children’s schools, had begun picking up their children Wednesday.

“This has been an ordeal for everyone,” said Georgia DOT spokeswoman Natalie Dale. “This storm and the bitter temperatures have caused so much difficulty, discomfort and anxiety for so many Georgians. We believe roadways will be restored to some level of normalcy today but would encourage the public to remain home, preferably all day.”

Only about two-to-three inches of snow fell in Atlanta on Tuesday, but it was enough to ground hundreds of flights at Hartsfield International Airport — the U.S.’s busiest — and paralyze the metropolitan area.

Debbie Hartwig, a waitress at an Atlanta area waffle house, said she managed to keep her cool thanks in part to the kindness of strangers after 10 hours on the road.

“I’m calm,” she said. “That’s all you can be. People are helping each other out, people are moving cars that have spun out or had become disabled. It’s been really nice. I even saw people passing out hot coffee and granola bars.”

“This was, hands down, the worst day of my life,” Evan McLean of Canton, who told The Atlanta Journal-Constitutionthat he “was literally stranded on Canton road for two and half hours without moving an inch.”

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, who dispatched guard troops in Humvees to clear the freeways, said Tuesday’s storm “came unexpectedly.”

As of 9 p.m., the Georgia State Patrol says they have been called out to investigate some 940 crashes since 10 a.m. Tuesday morning. The crashes have resulted in 104 injuries and one fatality, WXIA-TV reports.

Deal, like the governors of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina and South Carolina, declared a state of emergency.

Source: Larry Copeland and Doug Stanglin, USA TODAY

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