(Photo: REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry)
A massive storm – being described as "catastrophic, crippling and paralyzing" – slammed the Atlanta, Ga., area Wednesday morning, bringing freezing rain and sleet. At least 45,000 were left without power and close to 3,000 flights across the country were grounded.
"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," said Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed Tuesday night. "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 live flight tracking website FlightAware noted that there have been 2,935 cancellations today across the country.
Georgia Power, the state's largest utility, warned that power outages for hundreds of thousands of customers could last for days.
"This has the opportunity to be a huge event when you're talking about the amount of ice you're looking at," said Aaron Strickland, the emergency operations chief for the power company, according to CNN.
The National Weather Service warned on Wednesday that the crippling ice and snow accumulations are underway across the entire Southeast region.
"The stage is set for a major winter weather event to impact locations from the Deep South to the Northeast the next few days," a weather alert read.
"Widespread precipitation has already developed to the north of a frontal boundary stretched from the Southeast coast back into the northern Gulf ... and a surface low spinning up along the front will only help pump additional moisture into the region as it deepens over the north central Gulf on Wednesday. A fresh supply of Arctic air in place to the north of the boundary will allow for snow in the northern/northwestern edge of the precipitation shield ... with significant accumulations expected over the Southern Appalachians."
Atlanta, which had a very difficult time coping with a storm that brought over two inches of snow and produced significant commuter gridlock late January, is seeing ice already accumulating on roads and bridges.
Eli Jacks, a meteorologist with National Weather Service, urged Georgie residents to take the warnings very seriously.
"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, according to weather.com.
The meteorologist added that Atlanta and other parts of the South are particularly vulnerable to ice conditions, as many trees and limbs hang over power lines and can fall, knocking out power.