Originally created 01/31/05

Thousands without power after winter storm

ATLANTA - With the remnants of an icy winter storm that engulfed north Georgia Saturday melting away Sunday, there was progress in efforts to restore power to thousands of homes and businesses as well as full service to Atlanta's airport.

By late Sunday afternoon, about 168,000 homes and businesses in the state still were without power, slightly more than half the total of more than 300,000 early in the day.

Georgia Power reported about 125,000 customers still without power, and the Electric Membership Corp. reported about 43,000. Of those, a collective 90,000 were in metro Atlanta.

Georgia Power called in 5,600 workers from as far away as Louisiana and Oklahoma for support.

"We're working and hopefully we'll have everyone on by Monday evening," said Georgia Power spokeswoman Konswello Monroe, who added that more outages still were possible as melting ice threatened the stability of trees.

Most EMC customers should have service restored by midnight Sunday, according to spokeswoman Terri Brown.

Meanwhile, all four runways at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport were operational again - a day after the airport had all runways closed for about an hour and never had more than two runways open.

"There still isn't enough demand to have all four operating, but it's much easier today to maintain four runways," said airport spokeswoman Lanii Thomas, who added that about 300 stranded airline passengers had spent the night at Hartsfield-Jackson.

Because many customers who experienced delays and cancellations had to obtain new tickets, airport spokeswoman Felicia Browder said, "We did have some congestion in the lobbies." But Browder described the airline traffic as "back to normal."

Thick blankets of ice, which forced the cancellations of about 90 percent of Saturday's flights, began melting as temperatures climbed above the freezing mark Sunday.

Even with the improved weather conditions, fewer than 100 departures were scheduled out of the world's busiest passenger airport in the morning, Thomas said.

Delta, which only operated 8 percent of its flights in Atlanta the previous day, planned to have 70 percent of its normal Atlanta schedule Sunday, said spokesman Anthony Black.

AirTran canceled 33 of its estimated 500 flights scheduled for Sunday, but the airline expected operations to return to normal by late afternoon, said spokesman Tad Hutcheson.

Slick roads throughout the state, which played roles in at least two Georgia drivers' deaths as the storm set in Friday night, began clearing up, said state Department of Transportation spokesman Ron Battle.

Georgia State Patrol spokesman Larry Schnall said dangerous conditions still existed, especially in rural and shady areas and along bridges, but his office received no reports of fatalities Saturday.

Extra troopers were deployed throughout the state, but their biggest concern was a handful of scattered wrecks, he said.

"We had a lot of guys out last night who did very little aside from riding around," Schnall said Sunday. "The radio operator said it was actually very quiet last night."

The National Weather Service was predicting a sharp turn in weather conditions Sunday, with highs in the 40s predicted for north Georgia, the 50s for central Georgia and low 60s in south Georgia, said meteorologist Shirley Lamback.

"We should lose most of the ice, but not all of it," she said.

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