ATLANTA — The second wintry storm in two weeks to hit the Deep South encrusted highways, trees and power lines in ice Wednesday, knocking out electricity to more than 350,000 homes and businesses.
But it didn’t wreak the highway havoc in Atlanta that the previous bout of heavy weather did — largely because people learned their lesson the last time and stayed off the roads.
At least nine traffic deaths across the region were blamed on the treacherous weather, and more than 3,100 airline flights nationwide were canceled.
As residents across the South heeded forecasters’ unusually dire warnings and hunkered down at home against the onslaught of winter weather, the storm pushed northward along the Interstate 95 corridor.
Forecasters warned of a potentially “catastrophic” storm across the South with more than an inch of ice possible in places. As the day wore on, power outages climbed by the hour.
Ice combined with wind gusts up to 30 mph snapped tree limbs and power lines. More than 200,000 homes and businesses lost electricity in Georgia, 130,000 in South Carolina and nearly 30,000 in Louisiana. People could be in the dark for days.
In Atlanta, which was caught unprepared by the last storm, streets and highways were largely deserted this time. Before the first drop of sleet even fell, area schools announced they would be closed on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The scene was markedly different from the one Jan. 28, when thousands of children were stranded all night in schools by less than 3 inches of snow and countless drivers abandoned their cars after getting stuck traffic for hours.
However, heavy afternoon traffic was reported in Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C.
Caitlin Palmieri drove two blocks from her job in downtown Raleigh before getting stuck. Two men helped her park her car, and she walked back to work.
“It seemed like every other car was getting stuck, fishtailing, trying to move forward,” she said.
Across the region, those who had power passed the time watching movies or surfing the Internet.
Matt Altmix walked his dog, Stella, in Atlanta because “even in the snow, you still have to do your business.”
“I think some folks would even say they were a little trigger-happy to go ahead and cancel schools yesterday, as well as do all the preparation they did,” he said. “But it’s justified.”
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, who was widely criticized over his handling of the last storm, sounded an upbeat note this time.
“Thanks to the people of Georgia. You have shown your character,” he said.
and Russ Bynum in Savannah, Ga., contributed to this report.
Follow Christina Almeida Cassidy on Twitter: http://twitter.com/AP_Christina.