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Obama declares emergency, Deal says National Guard on standby

Drivers brace for a potentially "paralyzing ice storm" as severe winter weather threatens a wide swath of the South.


Nathan Deal

Nathan Deal

Georgia will have help from the federal government in responding to snow and ice expected to down power lines and create havoc on roads.

President Obama declared an emergency Tuesday in 45 counties in the state, including Gwinnett, allowing federal aid to supplement the state and local response to the event, which began Monday evening and has officials warning of a second more powerful wave overnight Tuesday.

The emergency declaration authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts, which include having more than 500 National Guardsmen on standby, emergency shelters open and evacuation plans in place for nursing homes and hospitals, as officials fear up to an inch of ice could leave hundreds of thousands of buildings without power for days.

“There is no doubt that this is one of nature’s worst kind of storms that can be inflicted upon the South, and that is ice. It is our worst enemy,” Deal said in a Tuesday press conference to dicuss the state’s preparations. “Loss of power is a real concern. … We’re not just crying wolf. This is serious business.”

With a concern focused 30 miles in each direction of the Interstate 20 corridor, stretching to Augusta, Deal said the state has learned from the problems two weeks ago that brought Atlanta interstates to a halt, but said this situation is much different.

“The cooperation of the public is essential … as we go through the next couple of days,” Deal said, encouraging people to stay off of the roads unless absolutely necessary.

With federal aid that will bring a supply of generators, as well as food, blankets and water, officials said the winter storm could have an impact that lasts until the weekend.

“I would be prepared for days,” Georgia Power’s Aaron Strickland said on the possibility that power could be out for some time. “This has the opportunity to be a huge event. … This is going to be a challenge for all of us.”

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Crews prep for "paralyzing ice storm"

Drivers brace for a potentially "paralyzing ice storm" as severe winter weather threatens a wide swath of the South.

Drivers brace for a potentially "paralyzing ice storm" as severe winter weather threatens a wide swath of the South.