State, city offices to close as icy blast threatens Georgia

‘Err on the side of caution’

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Gov. Brian Kemp closed state offices in 35 counties across north Georgia for Tuesday ahead of a wintry blast that could dump snow on parts of the region as Atlanta prepares to host the Super Bowl.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms also said non-essential city employees have Tuesday off, warning that "we don't want a repeat" of the infamous ice storm of 2014 or the gridlock that marred Atlanta's last Super Bowl.

"We have experienced a Super Bowl when it didn't turn out so well because of our lack of preparation," Bottoms said of the 2000 event, when an ice storm paralyzed the city. "We've been talking about ice and snow since last year. And you're seeing our preparation in action."

Col. Mark McDonough of the Department of Public Safety summed up the state’s approach this way at a press conference on Monday: “The message is pretty clear. Err on the side of caution.”

More:  Snow forecast, but Atlanta says it’s ready for Super Bowl visitors  

Forecasts show the fast-moving storm front could bring as much as 3 inches of snow and leave behind icy road conditions that snarl traffic and travel throughout the region ahead of Sunday's NFL title game.

Kemp warned that roads could freeze Tuesday and remain slick with ice on Wednesday morning. He said that transportation crews are “working around the clock” to pre-treat bridges and roadways to prevent icy buildup.

Crews spread more than 150,000 gallons of brine on roadways and atop bridges around north Georgia, including across 125 miles of roadways in metro Atlanta. Snow plows will be out in force on Tuesday to target precipitation.

Commercial truck drivers were encouraged to avoid driving inside I-285 unless they need to make deliveries. And residents were encouraged to stay off the roads and prepare for potential black ice.

“If you don’t have to be on the road, please do not travel,” said Kemp. “There will also be additional traffic because of the Super Bowl, so it’s important we act with an abundance of caution.”

Kemp said he had this advice for Georgians who need to hit the roads on Tuesday:

“Take a little more time, try not to be in a hurry and use public transportation.”

He and other officials sought to project a sense of preparedness. Homer Bryson, the head of Georgia’s emergency agency, said planning has been underway for months in case of a pre-Super Bowl cold snap.

“This is not a surprise,” he said.

The storm presents an early challenge for Kemp, who was sworn into office earlier this month. He appears to be taking the same approach as Deal, who adopted a better-safe-than-sorry strategy to storms in his final years in office.

That came after poor communication and slow government response to the disastrous 2014 ice storm that became an embarrassing debacle for the state.

State officials said they've learned from their mistakes, and a weather task force appointed after the storm prompted officials to buy more equipment and improve coordination.

“We are literally doing everything we can,” said Kemp, “and being proactive.”