21 years ago, Atlanta slammed by rare blizzard

Forecasts of a winter storm may have many longtime Atlantans remembering the day almost 21 years ago when Georgia was slammed by a rare, honest-to-goodness, blizzard.

On Wednesday, March 10, 1993, Atlanta’s high was 75 degrees, while other parts of the state hit the 80s. But by Friday, forecasters at the National Weather Service were sounding ominous warnings of overnight blizzard conditions as a hurricane-like storm churned out of Florida into Georgia.

The “Storm of the Century,” as it became known, hit metro Atlanta on Saturday, March 13, 1993. The snow began falling early that morning, and by the time it had tapered off, nearly 3 feet had fallen across parts of extreme north Georgia, with Union County reporting 35 inches.

Although only 4 inches of snow was officially recorded at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, a foot or more of the white stuff fell across the northern suburbs, and winds whipping to 50 mph blew the snow into nearly waist-deep drifts.

Fifteen people were killed in Georgia, while the death toll across the U.S., Canada and in Cuba hit 310.

The storm paralyzed metro Atlanta and north Georgia for days, the heavy snowfall closing interstates from Atlanta northward.

Saturday’s blizzard conditions subsided somewhat by late in the day, but were followed by bitter cold, with temperatures plummeting into the teens on Sunday.

The following Monday, hundreds if not thousands of motorists were still stranded on snow-packed I-75 through northwest Georgia. National Guardsmen in four-wheel drive vehicles made their way up the interstate, handing out bags of fruit to stranded motorists.

The weight of all that snow took its toll on the carpet industry in northwest Georgia, where the roofs of numerous large carpet mills and warehouses collapsed.

Over 10 million utility customers lost power as the storm developed into a fierce Nor’easter as it skirted the Atlantic coast northward. In Georgia, more than a half-million Georgia Power customers were without electricity, some for as long as two weeks.