ATLANTA - Members of the Georgia National Guard were placed on standby Tuesday for help in dealing with a major ice storm expected to hit the state overnight Tuesday and into Thursday.
"There is no doubt that this is one of Mother Nature's worst kinds of storms that can be inflicted on the South, and that is ice. It is our biggest enemy," Gov. Nathan Deal said at a news conference where he announced the move.
After some snow earlier in the day, rain was expected to move in overnight and turn into sleet and freezing rain.
More than 200 utility vehicles from Florida, North Carolina and other Southern states gathered in a parking lot near one of the grandstands at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The state had more than 22,000 tons of salt, 70,000 gallons of brine 45,000 tons of gravel and brought in 180 tons of additional salt and sand. The goal was to make sure at least two interstate lanes were available in each direction. Then material would be used on the most heavily used roads off the highways. Officials were also considering re-routing traffic in extreme circumstances.
"It's certainly going to be a challenge for us. Ice is definitely different than snow," said state Transportation Commissioner Keith Golden. "It is very difficult for us to plow ice."
Hundreds of Georgia National Guard troops were on standby in case evacuations were needed at hospitals or nursing homes, and more than 70 shelters were set to open. President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency in Georgia, ordering federal agencies to help the state and local response during the storm. Deal said a priority for that request was generators.
Meanwhile, Deal has ordered state offices to stay closed on Wednesday.
He signed an executive order Tuesday night barring employees from reporting to work unless they're involved in the state's emergency response to the storm.