ATLANTA - Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal is taking responsibility for the storm preparation failures that led to an epic traffic jam in Atlanta.
Deal said Thursday that the state did not make preparations early enough to avoid the problems that occurred. He says his agencies will undergo internal and external reviews and that the state will compile a new plan of action.
Later in the evening, Deal extended the state of emergency for Georgia to Sunday night. He said he did it to assure that all necessary resources are available for state agencies and local governments to clear roads and all other winter storm-related obstacles.
Snow started falling on Atlanta on Tuesday and commuters, schools and businesses all let out at the same time, causing gridlock. Some people had to abandoned their cars or sleep in them overnight.
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Roads Closely Monitored
Georgia Department of Transportation officials closely monitored the roadways from their southeast Atlanta command center.
Channel 2’s Dave Huddleston said 10 operators watched monitors and traffic meters starting at 6 a.m.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said there are lessons to be learned from the winter storm, especially with the school systems.
“I think the way going forward would be to recommend that when we have a severe weather event of the kind that we had faced, that I or the governor should call the local school system and ask them to close. We should also notify the parents of those children so the parents and children can coordinate and get them out of the city,” Reed said on a special edition of Channel 2 Action News.
Reed pointed out that 85 percent of the city streets were passable less than 24 hours after the storm.
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Channel 2’s Steve Gehlbach drove in SevereWeather Chaser 2 Thursday morning surveying the damage. He reported a few icy spots on Interstate 285, especially in the left-hand lanes. Gehlbach said the right-hand lane remained filled with abandoned cars and school buses near Langford Parkway.
More than 100 cars littered Thornton Road in Douglas County. Some drivers slept in their cars on Tuesday night when several tractor-trailers jack-knifed.
The DOT is giving drivers a chance to get their vehicles starting at 10 a.m. Cars towed from I-20 or the west side of I-285 can pick up their cars at the Westlake MARTA station. Cars towed from I-75, the Downtown Connector and the top end of I-285 can pick up their cars at Mount Paran Church on Mount Paran Road. Drivers must bring their car keys and driver's license. If you were towed you will not be charged.
All individuals are strongly encouraged to recover their vehicles before nightfall today as officials may be required to have any remaining vehicles towed so that roadways and shoulders can be cleared.
The Georgia National Guard worked overnight to find drivers who may remain in their cars. Channel 2’s Jade Hernandez followed a unit loaded with pre-packaged food and water.
“With the temperatures dropping, the things that have been de-icing may also start icing over so we want to be there to actually help any pedestrians or civilians out there,” Capt. Jonathan Mallett said.
Georgia Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Crystal Paulk-Buchanan said a survey by the Georgia State Patrol during the overnight hours on Wednesday identified an estimated 2,029 abandoned vehicles on metro Atlanta highways. The survey counted vehicles on area interstates and Georgia 400.
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Warm Weekend Ahead
Chandley said a slight warm up should help melt the sheets of ice that remain, but some areas in the north Georgia mountains could still see a few early snow flakes.
Temperatures by Saturday were expected to climb into the mid-50s and into the 60s by Sunday with rain expected.
Channel 2 Action News has a team of reporters continuing to follow the recovery from the winter storm. Stay with Channel 2 and wsbtv.com throughout the day to get the latest on climbing temperatures, icy spots on roads and the massive car recovery operation.