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Here we go again: Winter storm heading for Atlanta, Southeast

By Ralph Ellis, CNN
February 10, 2014 -- Updated 0226 GMT (1026 HKT)
Motorists jam Atlanta's downtown connector exiting the city during a winter storm on January 28.
Motorists jam Atlanta's downtown connector exiting the city during a winter storm on January 28.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A winter storm expected to hit the Southeast Monday night
  • Georgia, Atlanta plan to treat the streets before the storm
  • Officials lambasted after earlier storm paralyzed Atlanta
  • Birmingham, Memphis and Little Rock are also in the crosshairs

(CNN) -- Less than two weeks after a winter storm paralyzed Atlanta, a brand new round of bad weather is bearing down on the Southeast.

The National Weather Service forecasts a 60% to 80% chance of rain, snow and sleet from Monday night through Wednesday in Atlanta. Up to 2 inches of snow could stick. A winter storm watch is in effect Monday through Wednesday morning for Atlanta, Birmingham, Memphis and Little Rock.

The coming storm will be the first test for a 32-member severe weather task force created in the wake of the fallout from last month's debacle when 2.6 inches of snow shutdown Atlanta's metropolitan area.

A car lies half submerged in the Cahaba River in Mountain Brook, Alabama, on Thursday, January 30. The driver was able to escape before the car slid into the river during a snow storm on Tuesday and was not injured. A wave of arctic air that started over the Midwest and Plains spread to the Southeast, bringing snow, freezing ice and sleet to a region that doesn't deal with such weather very often. A car lies half submerged in the Cahaba River in Mountain Brook, Alabama, on Thursday, January 30. The driver was able to escape before the car slid into the river during a snow storm on Tuesday and was not injured. A wave of arctic air that started over the Midwest and Plains spread to the Southeast, bringing snow, freezing ice and sleet to a region that doesn't deal with such weather very often.
Freezing temperatures sweep U.S.
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Photos: Freezing temperatures sweep U.S. Photos: Freezing temperatures sweep U.S.

The city of Atlanta and Georgia say they're being proactive this time, unlike two weeks ago when the storm snuck up on Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, resulting in citizen inconvenience and outrage.

The governor apologized to the public and promised to handle things differently next time. "I'm the governor, the buck stops with me," he said.

On Sunday the Georgia Department of Transportation said it would start treating roads with sand and salt after the Monday evening rush hour. Supplies from southern Georgia are being brought to the Atlanta metro area, said transportation department spokeswoman Natalie Dale. Deal also gave the National Guard a warning order, an advance notice to personnel of the possibility of a "call up" for a state mission. Schools also began announcing their plans to cancel evening activities beginning Monday.

Atlanta City Hall spokesman Carlos Campos said priority roads and bridges will be treated Monday night with a combination of sand and salt, and more supplies are being ordered. The city will open a joint operations center and coordinate with the state government. The city urged people to take precautions such as filling cars with gas and stocking up on food.

When the storm struck January 28, traffic gridlock occurred almost instantaneously as commuters fled Atlanta en masse. Thousands of school children across northern Georgia spent the night in schools, and countless motorists endured 20-plus hour commutes, if they were lucky enough to get home at all.

Deal appointed the new task force to help prepare for future winter storms.

Glenn Burns, chief meteorologist for CNN affiliate WSB and a member of the Georgia Severe Weather Task Force, told CNN Sunday that the group is ready.

He participated in a meeting Sunday with the National Weather Service, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, GDOT, local schools and meteorologists.

"I think being on the same page with everybody getting the same information is going to be key to how we respond," he said.

Burns also warned that this week's storm will be significant.

"This is a whole different ball game," Burns said. "What we had two weeks ago was a minor event. This is likely to be a major event."

Burns predicts northern Georgia will see more than 30 hours of wintry precipitation compared to last month's four hours of snow.

CNN weather forecasters say this week's storm will hit the Southeast in two waves.

The first wave will occur Monday into Tuesday with a mixture of snow, sleet and freezing rain. The second wave pushes in Tuesday and Wednesday because of an area of low pressure bringing Gulf moisture to the Southeast. It will bring a wintry mix and freezing rain.

The National Weather Service predicts lows of 35 degrees Monday night. On Tuesday, the high will only reach 37 and the low will be around 30. Wednesday will be even colder, with a high of 35 and a low of 30. On Thursday, temperatures should rise into the high 40s.

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