U.S. News

02.13.14

How to Survive a Southern Ice Storm

Atlanta was caught cold by a freak ice storm last month, now the authorities are struggling to deal with another one.

A second historic winter storm in a month has struck the Deep South, leaving Atlanta in the grip of a series of ice storms it has no experience of combating.

Georgia’s governor, Nathan Deal, was criticized heavily during the first storm for the state’s response time and lack of snow and ice removal equipment. This time he was taking no chances. “This is one of Mother Nature’s worst kinds of storms that can be inflicted on the South”, he said. “We’re not kidding. We’re not crying wolf”.

The National Guard was called in to assist, along with dozens of salt trucks and snowplows from surrounding cities. After the brutal experience of the last storm when people were trapped in their cars overnight, Georgia’s streets were deserted. Locals pointed out that Atlanta finally resembled a scene from Walking Dead which is filmed in the city.

The best way to prepare for an ice storm is to consider what emergency heat you have in case the electricity goes out.

The National Weather Service described the storm as “mind boggling” and it left many without power while creating “deceptively dangerous” driving conditions. Government meteorologists in Peachtree City, Ga., Tweeted on Wednesday, that the “air outside filled with the smell of pine and can hear the cracks of trees in the distance. be careful out there.”

Lots of people have been asking why Atlanta can’t handle a little ice? The truth is, even in the northeast, many cities have not experienced ice storms of this magnitude. Many people do not understand the difference between sleet and freezing rain. If a pure freezing rain storm were to hit the northern tier of this country, it would have the same effect as it does in Atlanta.

Sleet is rain mixed with snow; there are pellet like snowflakes that fall between warming and cooling fronts. Freezing rain, on the other hand, is a whole different ballgame. There are two variables at play here; there is either warm air aloft (in the upper levels of the atmosphere), and really cold air at the surface, or really cold air aloft and then warm air near the surface. Either of these scenarios could produce freezing rain, when there is a lot of rain in the warm air aloft, it will fall as regular rain, and then freeze near the surface immediately turning to ice pellets on impact. It can bring down trees, power lines and utility poles, and makes it dangerous, if not impossible to walk or drive. 

The best way to prepare for an ice storm is to consider what emergency heat you have in case the electricity goes out. You do not want to be left in the cold, as outages may last for up to 72 hours. It is also a good idea to have spare cell phone batteries since social media is likely to be your best source of information.