ATLANTA (AP) -- Emergency management workers in the Atlanta area and other parts of north Georgia were preparing to spring into action as rain - and temperatures - were falling early Wednesday, potentially leading to "catastrophic" ice conditions across the region.
Already, Georgia Power was reporting thousands of power outages around the state. And forecasters and officials said the number of outages would probably grow throughout the day. In north Georgia, morning snow was falling. Other areas of the South, from Louisiana to South Carolina, and the mid-Atlantic also are expected to get socked with a wintry mix of ice, snow and freezing rain.
In northeast Georgia, state DOT crews are plowing snow and spreading salt and gravel on state routes and interstates throughout the region, spokeswoman Teri Pope said in her 6:30 update. Pope said the following locations are hazardous, icing has been reported and crews are working in these areas:
* Forsyth County - SR 53 @ SR 306, SR 20 from SR 400 across the Chattahoochee River to Gwinnett County, SR 369 at SR 400, SR 141 at Ronald Reagan Parkway, SR 369 bridges across Lake Lanier
* Hall County - SR 369 bridges across Lake Lanier and I-985 NB north of Exit 22/SR11/Gainesville
* Elbert County - SR 172 from Bowman to Madison County Line
* Clarke County - reported tree down on SR 10 Loop at SR 10/US 78
* Barrow County - SR 11 @ SR 211, SR 11 from the Post Office to the Walton County Line and SR 324 bridge over Railroad in Auburn
* Dawson County - SR 136 over Burnt Mountain has heavy snow accumulations. Crews focusing on SR 53 and SR 186.
* Stephens County - SR 145 @ Wolf Pin Road, SR 106 @ SR 17 and the Toccoa Bypass
Pope said there were heavy snow accumulations in Habersham, Lumpkin, Rabun, Towns, Union and White Counties - roadway conditions are treacherous and advised "do not travel in these counties."
Atlanta and the surrounding region dodged the first punch of a dangerous winter storm Tuesday, but forecasters warned that the second punch would likely bring a thick layer of ice and heavy winds that could knock out power to thousands and leave people stranded in their cold, dark homes for days. National Weather Service forecasters used unusual dire language in warnings and memos early Wednesday, and they said that while a foot of snow could fall in some parts of Georgia, "it is the ice that will have the catastrophic impacts."
Elected leaders and emergency management officials began warning people to stay off the roads, especially after two inches of snowfall caused an icy gridlock two weeks ago and left thousands stranded in vehicles overnight. It seemed many in the region around the state's capital obliged as streets and highways were uncharacteristically unclogged Tuesday.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed in a news conference at the Georgia Emergency Management Agency's special operations center Tuesday evening implored people to get somewhere safe and stay there.
"The message I really want to share is, as of midnight tonight, wherever you are, you need to plan on staying there for a while," Reed said. "The bottom line is that all of the information that we have right now suggests that we are facing an icing event that is very unusual for the metropolitan region and the state of Georgia."
The forecast drew comparisons to an ice storm in the Atlanta area in 2000 that left more than 500,000 homes and businesses without power and an epic storm in 1973 that caused an estimated 200,000 outages for several days. In 2000, damage estimates topped $35 million.
Eli Jacks, a meteorologist with National Weather Service, said forecasters use words such as "catastrophic" sparingly.
"Sometimes we want to tell them, `Hey, listen, this warning is different. This is really extremely dangerous, and it doesn't happen very often,'" Jacks said.
The service's memo early Wednesday called the storm "an event of historical proportions."
It continues: "Catastrophic ... crippling ... paralyzing ... choose your adjective."
Jack said three-quarters of an inch of ice would be catastrophic anywhere. But the Atlanta area and other parts of the South are particularly vulnerable: Many trees and limbs hang over power lines. When ice builds up on them, limbs snap and fall, knocking out power.
Nearly all flight at the Atlanta airport have been canceled. Delta, alone, canceled 2,200 flights on Tuesday and Wednesday, most of them in Atlanta.