Hundreds of thousands without power in Georgia

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 13, 2014 at 8:33 pm •  Published: February 13, 2014

ATLANTA (AP) — As utility crews worked to restore power to hundreds of thousands of Georgians, hundreds of thousands more were still without electricity the night after a winter storm dumped snow and ice throughout the region.

Although crews were making progress, new outages were reported throughout the day. Georgia Power and the Georgia Electric Membership Corp. reported that about 202,215 customers were without service as of 9 p.m. Thursday.

Warmer temperatures and sunshine helped melt ice-coated roads across parts of the state. Yet authorities cautioned that threats remain, and Gov. Nathan Deal extended a state of emergency through Sunday evening for 91 counties.

"Let's don't let up yet," Deal said during a noon news conference. "It's nice to see the sun but do be careful. Don't unnecessarily jeopardize yourself. And tomorrow morning, those roads are going to be slick."

Areas near Augusta on the state's east side were among the hardest-hit, and Deal flew over the area in a helicopter with Augusta's mayor and an official from nearby Columbia County to assess the situation.

Deal said teams of workers with chain saws helped clear trees and branches and National Guard soldiers were among the resources being sent to help residents of east Georgia.

The storm lived up to predictions that it would be "catastrophic" and historic, said Rick Davis, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service. The federal agency had issued the unusually dire warnings before the storm.

"As of right now, it definitely stacks up as a top three winter weather event for Georgia," Davis said.

Deal said the storm was "not nearly as dramatic or traumatic as it could have been" because of early action by the state, warning of the approaching storm and decisions made by metro Atlanta residents to stay home and off the roads.

"We think the human response under these circumstances has been remarkable," Deal said.

The Atlanta area saw about a quarter of an inch or more of ice, 1 to 2 inches of sleet and 1 to 2 inches of snow for a total of 3 to 5 inches of frozen precipitation, Davis said. In addition, more than 700,000 people lost power at any given time, though in many cases it was restored quickly.

The public may not have thought this storm was as bad because many people heeded warnings and stayed off road, Davis said.

"The public perception may be it went so smoothly," he said. "But if we would have had people out on the road, the reality would have been a nightmare situation."

The storm prompted thousands of flight cancellations this week.

Peter Holmes, 40, of Alpharetta, Ga., arrived at the airport Thursday morning with his son, Hayden, to fly to a ski and snowboarding vacation at Lake Tahoe on the border of California and Nevada. He planned the trip as a Christmas gift. To prevent interruptions, Holmes had deliberately avoided connecting flights in Northern airports that often get snowstorms.