An army of emergency crews were gearing up for battle Wednesday with a vicious--and rare--ice storm in Georgia that had already cut off power for thousands of customers and left the streets of Atlanta looking like a sci-fi wasteland.
More than 70,000 customers in Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and the Carolinas were without power early Wednesday. But Georgia was bearing the brunt of the wicked weather, with more than 80,000 customers in the dark Wednesday, while emergency planners urged drivers across the state to stay off "deceptively dangerous" roads.
Metro Atlanta was a veritable ghost town as an eerie calm settled over desolate streets slick with ice. The highways were deserted as freezing rain kept drivers at home. At local retailers, shoppers scrambled to stock up on supplies before the brunt of the storm came crashing down.
As many as 5,000 state personnel plus an additional 3,000 support crews were fanned out across the region and at the ready, according to Brian Green with utility company Georgia Power. The National Weather Service issued an ominous warning for a potentially "catastrophic event," urging Georgians to "be prepared to be without power in some locations for days and perhaps as long as a week."
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As of mid-morning Wednesday, 3,003 flights across the U.S. were canceled and 3,198 delayed — over 2,000 of them at the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson hub, where only 259 flights were scheduled to fly today, an airport spokesman said.
"Be prepared for power outages, long periods in the cold/dark," The Weather Channel tweeted as the the first freezing rain fell in what was forecast to be a 36-hour deep freeze.
As it crawls eastwards, the same weather system was forecast to dump up to 12 inches of snow on New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., on Thursday, snarling travel plans for millions.