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Obama declares emergency in Georgia as Atlanta braces for severe storm

  |   Feb. 11, 2014 at 4:53 PM
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ATLANTA, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- President Obama declared a federal emergency for Georgia Tuesday as Atlanta residents hunkered down for a winter storm an official said could be "catastrophic."

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has already declared a state of emergency in a third of the state's 159 counties, while officials in Atlanta and elsewhere in northern parts of the state announced schools would be closed Tuesday and Wednesday, CNN reported.

Snow, or any other inclement conditions, had yet to arrive, but officials said they wanted to be better prepared after a late January storm dropped 2.6 inches of snow on Atlanta, immobilizing traffic and stranding parents and their children in separate places around the city.

"I think we're certainly ahead of the game this time and that's important," Deal said Monday night.

Unlike the last storm, however, this one is expected to bring ice and with it the potential to knock down the power grid.

"When you're talking about the amount of ice we're looking at, it's catastrophic," said Aaron Strickland, storm center manager for Georgia Power Co.

"So it is an event that we are extremely fearful of, but we're preparing [by] bringing in outside help at this time," he added.

Snow, sleet and rain are forecast for the area through Wednesday morning, creating "hazardous or impossible" road conditions, National Weather Service forecasters said. Suburbs north of Atlanta could get 1 to 2 inches of snow, with as much as 8 inches possible in the northeastern mountains.

Some 900 flights have been canceled ahead of the storm, with most of them in the storm's path from Dallas to Atlanta and on to Charlotte, N.C.

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