The Atlanta metro area is still locked down after an uncharacteristic ice storm, featuring a mere two inches of snow, brought the city to a standstill on Tuesday.
When a winter storm deposited the snow, roads were gridlocked across the city due to the intense traffic, leaving hundreds of thousands with hours-long commutes and many more stranded. Even well into Wednesday, some 2,000 students are likely to remain stuck in their Fulton County schools for hours, according to Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal.
While the Georgia Department of Transportation is working to clear the streets, Atlanta’s considerable urban sprawl and its population’s inexperience driving in winter storms make that a difficult task. While the Atlanta metro area boasts some 6 million residents, less than half a million live within the city limits -- but the area over which they are spread is vast, giving the GDOT plenty of ground to cover. Meanwhile, conditions are still terrible for drivers. WSBTV reports 791 car accidents in the Atlanta city limits alone.
"It is literally a wasteland outside,” Sean Kennedy, communications analyst at the Centers for Disease Control, told IBTimes. “Almost every major road is blocked by spun-out cars or cops, and none of the highways are passable because the ramps are iced over."
Kennedy, whose usual 20-minute commute took four hours on Tuesday, blames much of the traffic disaster on the Atlanta city government. He says the city did not let most schools or workers out until about 1 p.m., when the storm was already raging and conditions were already unsafe for driving.
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On Wednesday, driving conditions still had not cleared up. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports severe traffic on all major highways. Interstate 285 is experiencing multiple closures, while several lanes on I-75 and I-20 remain blocked by immobile cars and trucks. Much of the traffic comes from tractor trailers, which are unable to gain traction on the icy roads.
The Georgia Department of Transportation has advised that tractor trailers should stay out of the state of Georgia entirely.
“If there isn’t already a tractor-trailer in Georgia, please stay out,” GDOT spokeswoman Karlene Barron told the AJC. “We cannot deal with any more.”