Iced-in Atlanta almost completely shut down, another Arctic front coming

Local buses aren't running. Mail service is suspended. Even a salt truck crashed. What happens to a city of 5 million with eight snow plows? Break out Twitter and the 'Star Wars' figurines!

By , Staff writer

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    Truckers Bill Dougherty (l.) Chis Vlad (c.) and Jim Plewinski walk on Interstate 285 as their trucks sit stranded for more than 24 hours from a winter storm that turned the road into a sheet of ice Tuesday in Atlanta. (AP Photo/)
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Citizens of the South's largest city sat inside Tuesday with unplowed roads and uncleared sidewalks, stunned by a bitter winter storm that quickly converted the city's nickname from Hotlanta to "Hothlanta," in honor of the frozen planet from the "Star Wars" sequel, "The Empire Strikes Back."

"If I had a Tauntaun, I'd be able to get to my hair appt. Instead I'm stuck at home again," tweeted Atlanta writer Beth Dolgner.

"Nobody's going anywhere for a very long time," Tweeted Tim Alborg.

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Indeed, much of the city remained impassable Tuesday as a sadly outmatched contingent of plows and sand trucks failed to make much of a dent in the one-inch ice sheet that remained after the six-inch Sunday night snow that paralyzed much of the Deep South, and most notably its symbolic capital. The snow quickly turned into a treacherous driving experience, with hundreds of accidents reported. Even a salt truck spun out against a wall, blocking traffic.

Another Arctic cold front moving into the area nearly guaranteed that much of the city won't move until warmer weather arrives this weekend, pointing out, for many, the woeful inadequacy of storm response. Only eight plows were working the city's side streets and another 45 were trying – often vainly – to clear the one-inch layer of ice from the city's famously crowded interstates.

Resident Lance Blair said he used a hockey stick to clear a 150 foot path in front of his house, becoming a symbol of the city's general state of unpreparedness.

Gallows humor quickly set in: "Forecast: 100 percent chance of frustration," noted the acerbic Atlanta Journal-Constitution Twitter feed. Comedy Central's faux talking head Stephen Colbert helped out, suggesting that Atlantans had dubbed the storm "The Weather of Northern Aggression."

But at least the refrigerators were on and Internet connections up. Only a few hundred homes lost power from the storm.

A city utterly stalled

At Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, hundreds of passengers remained stranded Tuesday, though the previous day's 1,450 canceled flights were expected to dwindle as airport officials managed to clear four of five runways.

After receiving a 911 call Monday night, Atlanta police delivered sandwiches and water from a local jail kitchen to 150 stranded passengers at the Forsyth Street Greyhound station. Officers returned Monday morning with breakfast sandwiches. Local bus traffic, too, was canceled after a MARTA bus spun a full 180 on Monday morning.

Area police stopped responding to minor accidents on Monday as law enforcement struggled to navigate slick streets for emergencies. Clayton County Sheriff Kem Kimbrough had to run operations from Utah, unable to return to the city from a business trip.

And that new issue of the New Yorker to help while away the time? Forget it. Even the rough-riding US Postal Service canceled most deliveries for the second day in a row, as did Federal Express and UPS.

All area malls remained closed. Most grocery stores were scheduled to open Tuesday morning, but customers – many of whom planned hiking expeditions – were asked to call ahead to make sure the doors would be open.

Football players not exempt

Atlanta Falcons defensive end Kroy Biermann rescued teammate John Abraham after Mr. Abraham's car slid into a ditch on the way to practice in Flowery Branch, north of Atlanta, on Monday. All but two players made it to a critical practice ahead of this weekend home playoff game against the Green Bay Packers.

"To the rescue lol teamwork," Mr. Biermann tweeted.

Even as supplies dwindled, residents seemed determined to enjoy a city for once steeped in a snowy silence.

Responding to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reader who complained that "a foot of snow only slows things down for an hour or two up north," commenter Skreet noted, "Darlin', check your surroundings ... you're in Georgia, and we don't move near that fast."

Meanwhile, Atlantan Luke Thornton brought out an impressive set of Star Wars figurines and set up his own Battle of Hothlanta. "This is what geeks do on a snowday," he tweeted.

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