Atlanta, GA, United States (4E) – Thousands of students and hundreds of commuters remain stranded on interstates, schools and Home Depot stores in Georgia and Alabama Wednesday as traffic jams caused by snow prevented them from returning home quickly and safely the previous day.
Snow caught commuters on the road during Tuesday’s rush hour causing spin-outs that led to traffic jams or slowdown and about 940 car crashes that killed one motorist and injured 104 others in metro Atlanta. The fatality, a 60-year-old woman from Griffin, died after losing control of her Ford Explorer in Coweta County, the Georgia State Patrol said.
Karlene Barron, spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Transportation, blamed Tuesday’s accidents to the panic to get home. People also did not heed warnings of snow. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed blamed the government for closing schools and offices at the same time as businesses shut down.
Driving took eight hours or more and unsafe roads forced school buses taking students home to turn back or wait for better conditions. Other bus services were suspended due to dangerous road conditions.
Many roads in several Georgia counties were closed through Wednesday for being icy, impassable or for clearing. People in cars and trucks that filled streets, highways and interstates said they were stranded for 8, 10 and 12 hours. Others abandoned cars and walked home or took refuge in strangers’ homes. Home Depot opened 26 stores in Alabama and Georgia to stranded travelers overnight.
Several hundred students were sheltered in nine schools, according to Atlanta Public Schools spokeswoman Kimberly Willis Green. Some 4,500 students spent the night in various school buildings in Hoover, Alabama while another 800 were stuck in schools in Birmingham, Birmingham City Schools Superintendent Craig Witherspoon said.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley appealed to residents to stay home until road conditions improve. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed urged residents to stop driving for at least a day to give crews a chance to clean up.
The same scenes in Alabama and Georgia were seen in Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina. Aside from Bentley, the governors of these states declared states of emergency.
Meanwhile, more than 1,100 flights had been canceled nationwide as of 7:50 a.m. ET on Wednesday, based on information from flight-tracking service FlightAware.com. Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International, the world’s busiest airport and the top hub for Delta Air Lines, cancelled more than 215 departures and more than 225 arrivals. The figure was beside the 3,260 flight cancelled on Tuesday and 1,030 flights cancelled on Monday.
There were hundreds of flight cancellations in the Houston Bush Intercontinental and Chicago O’Hare airports.