Kemp declares state of emergency as winter storm approaches North Georgia

Mayor Andre Dickens (center) talks with Atlanta Department of Transportation Commissioner Josh Rowan (right) about snow preparations Friday. JOHN SPINK / JOHN.SPINK@AJC.COM



Mayor Andre Dickens (center) talks with Atlanta Department of Transportation Commissioner Josh Rowan (right) about snow preparations Friday. JOHN SPINK / JOHN.SPINK@AJC.COM

It’s been nearly four years since Atlanta’s last significant snowfall, but that streak could end this weekend.

Confidence in a significant winter weather event is growing as a storm moves closer to Georgia, according to Channel 2 Action News meteorologists. The system will arrive as cold air settles across the northern part of the state, creating the right conditions for a few snowflakes. Or maybe more.

That prompted Gov. Brian Kemp to declare a state of emergency Friday evening.

“Boy, are there going to be big impacts, especially on the northeast side,” Channel 2 meteorologist Brian Monahan said Friday. “Dangerous travel, if not difficult to impossible travel in northeast Georgia up that I-85 corridor. Many of us are going to see at least some period of rain.”

The rain is expected to arrive late Saturday, long after celebrations wrap up in Athens honoring the Georgia Bulldogs’ football national championship. According to Channel 2, it will be clear but cold with temperatures in the mid-40s when the parade begins at 12:30 p.m.

“Conditions will definitely be favorable for those of you heading out to celebrate all the fun,” Channel 2 meteorologist Eboni Deon said. “It’s still going to be chilly, so you are going to want to dress for the warmth. I don’t think you are going to need the rain gear that early in the day.”

Monahan said the storm will begin as rain for most of North Georgia on Saturday night, and the northeast mountains will be the first to transition to a wintry mix early Sunday morning. The mix will expand to the west throughout the morning, with snow, sleet and freezing rain continuing all day Sunday, he said. Temperatures are not expected to leave the 30s.

As of Friday, meteorologists said I-20 looks to be the dividing line between wintry weather and just rain. Heavy rain is expected for neighborhoods to the south. Those north of Lake Lanier have the best chance of “significant accumulating snow,” according to Channel 2.

By the end of the day Sunday, that area could record 2 to 5 inches of snowfall and a quarter-inch of ice, according to the latest forecast. Higher elevations in the mountains could see 6 to 10 inches of snow. Snowfall is expected in Atlanta, but the jury is still out as to just how much.

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch for portions of North Georgia beginning Saturday evening into late Sunday night, and a winter storm warning is in effect for several northeast Georgia counties.

According to Channel 2, it has been 1,457 days since there was measurable snowfall at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the second-longest no-snow streak since a 1,477-day stretch between 1948 and 1952.

The last time Atlanta got more than a dusting was Jan. 17, 2018, when the city recorded 2.3 inches of snow.

The Georgia Department of Transportation began brining roads Friday morning. As conditions warrant, it will also apply salt and gravel.

The I-75 express lanes in both Henry and Clayton counties and Cobb and Cherokee counties will be closed at midnight Sunday and remain closed until conditions improve. In addition to slippery travel, the transportation agency expects downed tree limbs and power lines as a result of the storm.

GDOT Commissioner Russell McMurry is encouraging motorists to stay off the roads until the winter weather comes to an end to give their crews space to work.

Credit: WSBTV Videos

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