Ice-bound US South: Atlanta turned into parking lot
Warmer weather was poised to roll over the US South, bringing relief after an ice storm which paralyzed much of the region, stranding motorists, blocking highways and leading to at least seven deaths.
"Certainly, the worst is over," said National Weather Service meteorologist Stephen Corfidi. "Today - from a combination of sun, moderating temperatures, and dry air - some of the ice will just evaporate."
Earlier in the week, the storm began to sweep over a region of about 60 million people largely unaccustomed to ice and snow, stretching from Texas through Georgia and into the Carolinas.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed came under fire for his response to a storm that trapped hundreds of children in schools overnight and created traffic jams stretching for miles on roads coated with 2 inches of snow.
Georgia officials were to use four-wheel-drive vehicles to shuttle motorists to cars they abandoned on highways, blocking traffic and stranding thousands of drivers in their cars for as much as 24 hours.
Road crews planned to provide gas to fill empty tanks and a jump-start for cars with dead batteries. Other motorists would be offered rides to cars moved during clean-up efforts on Atlanta area roads.
Schools and government offices would be shut on Thursday in Atlanta due to the ice storm, city and school websites said. Early on Thursday, it was an unseasonably freezing 16 degrees Fahrenheit (-9 C).
But later today, temperatures were expected to climb to the mid- to upper-30s Fahrenheit (2 to 4 Celsius) in the Georgia area and would get gradually warmer into the weekend, Corfidi said.
It would warm up in other parts of the storm-affected Southeast, too, and by Sunday some areas could see temperatures in the low 60s F (15 to 17 F).
At least five deaths in Alabama and two in Georgia were blamed on the weather.