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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Scenes from the Historic Ice Storm in the South

Photos shared on Twitter and other social media platforms show significant damage from a historic ice storm in the South that has left more than 250,000 utility customers without power in Georgia and the Carolinas on Wednesday.

As my colleague Kim Severson, reports, most people in the Atlanta metropolitan area heeded warnings to remain home this morning after a couple of inches of snow paralyzed the city two weeks ago.

But many found themselves in their homes in the dark with sub-freezing temperatures outside. The images of fallen tree branches, snapped utility poles and downed power lines around the region shared on Twitter illustrated the challenge utility crews have faced in getting electricity restored.

By 12:30 p.m., 145,000 customers reported power failures in South Carolina. The photos of downed trees that people were sending to local television stations via Twitter explain why.

Georgia Power charted on its online map scattered outages affecting more than 140,000 customers. “We do expect an increasing number of outages as the freezing rain continues,” utility officials said. More than 6,000 workers, including crew members from around the country, were working to repair downed lines.

Another 22,000 customers were reporting the loss of electricity in South Carolina, officials said, as ice coated the trees and roads there. In North Carolina, officials in Raleigh were preparing for more than eight inches of snow.

Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia vowed that the state was prepared for this storm after he apologized for its inadequate response to the snow two weeks ago. During that emergency, hundreds of children were trapped in their schools, sleeping overnight on gym mats. Other people, unable to get home, abandoned their cars on ice-covered, clogged roadways and slept in the aisles of supermarkets and other stores, including a Home Depot.

This week, classes were canceled ahead of time. More than 50 shelters were set up. Georgia National Guard troops prepared to assist if power failures forced evacuations at hospitals or nursing homes.

And people emptied grocery store shelves ahead of the storm.

More than 2,800 flights were canceled into and out of the United States, according to FlightAware, with the largest numbers being reported from the airport in Atlanta as well as those in Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C.

Amtrak also suspended rail operations on some trains from New York to south of Washington.

On Thursday, the storm is expected to move north into the mid-Atlantic, where weather forecasters warn of significant accumulation in the Philadelphia area and in parts of New Jersey and New York.

Meanwhile, officials from PECO, the utility company in Pennsylvania, said power was restored just yesterday to 2,000 customers outside of Philadelphia who were among the 700,000 who lost power during last week’s ice storm. One customer remained without power today, officials said, and is expected to be brought on line this afternoon.

Some people who made it to the supermarket, and still had power, were able to enjoy the “snow day.”