Ga. still crippled by ice, snow; roads treacherous

By Dorie Turner

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 11 2011 2:54 p.m. MST

Johnny Rakliff, of Maplesville, Ala., right, talks with a state trooper as he sits stranded for over 24 hours on Interstate 285 in Atlanta with hundreds others from a winter storm that turned the road into a sheet of ice Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011.

David Goldman, Associated Press

ATLANTA — A winter storm left many parts of Georgia crippled for a second day Tuesday, stranding Greyhound bus passengers in Atlanta without food and closing down government offices and school districts as roads remained coated in snow and ice.

The Georgia Department of Transportation brought in crews from central Georgia to help with treacherous conditions on interstates in Atlanta, shutting down large portions of I-285 throughout the day to spread salt, gravel and deicer in hopes of making the road passable. Cities looked like ghost towns as stores and restaurants remained closed and residents hunkered down at home.

Gov. Nathan Deal urged drivers to stay off the road.

"I want to reiterate, if you do not need to be on the roads please, do not go out and attempt to drive, he said. "The road conditions are not going to cleared up immediately."

Trucker Vernon Cook, 67, had been sitting still on the ramp from Interstate 285 to I-75 south just south of Atlanta for almost 24 hours Tuesday in a long line of tractor trailers that couldn't move because of the icy road. He said he'd seen few Georgia Department of Transportation trucks come by and none of them had spread salt or gravel on the road.

"I've been a trucker for 46 years and have seen nothing like this," said Cook, who was headed with a load of synthetic rubber from Beaumont, Texas, to Fayetteville, N.C. "Georgia DOT is not working, not on this road."

DOT crews got the trucks moved out on Tuesday afternoon.

DOT workers were hampered by frigid temperatures that caused thawed roadways to refreeze, as well as traffic backed up from tractor trailers stuck on many interstates, said spokeswoman Jill Goldberg. She said crews were doing all they could to clear ice from roadways but they couldn't reach many problem spots because of traffic.

"Our trucks and crews are out there treating every single thing they can get to," Goldberg said.

The Atlanta jail and several local charities delivered food, blankets and bottled water Tuesday to more than 300 passengers stuck at the Greyhound bus station in downtown Atlanta. Many had been stranded there since early Monday.

Some travelers tried to get some sleep in chairs or on the floor.

Greg Walton, 32, of Orlando, Fla., said his bus started losing traction and the battery eventually died when it neared Atlanta. He's been stuck at the station since being ferried there on another bus Monday.

"They bring us here, then they just declared martial law on us," he said, jokingly.

Valencia Dantzler, 39, of Chicago said she had been on a cruise and was en route back to Chicago when her bus was stranded Sunday afternoon in Atlanta. She was still stuck Tuesday. She called McDonald's and local charities to bring food to passengers who were out of money and couldn't buy items from the bus station restaurant.

Dantzler said some local residents came with food after seeing reports of the passengers' plight on TV.

"There was a lady that drove down here from Smyrna today," Dantzler said. "She brought sandwiches for people."

Greyhound spokeswoman Maureen Richmond said all bus service in Atlanta was canceled Monday and Tuesday. She said the company was providing warm buses where passengers could rest and contacting charities to bring in food.

But forecasters say the roads likely won't improve much until the end of the week. Temperatures are expected to remain around freezing during the day Wednesday with a little warming on Thursday, which means ice and snow will melt very slowly, said Jason Deese with the National Weather Service in Peachtree City

"It's not going to be anything that's quick by any means," Deese said.

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