Ugly remnants, signs of recovery after winter storm clobbers Deep South

Posted at 5:24 AM, Jan 30, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-30 05:24:27-05

By Ben Brumfield

ATLANTA (CNN) — The otherworldly, icy nightmare that paralyzed Atlanta is slipping into the rear view mirror. Abandoned cars still litter the road, but not for long.

Georgia will help motorists retrieve their abandoned cars Thursday morning by ferrying them in four-wheel-drive vehicles to spots where they left them standing.

They will also receive up to five gallons of gas, emergency management spokesman Ken Davis said.

And a jump start, if their batteries are dead.

About 50 teams comprising 75 officers will be there to help.

The state has no official tally of how many abandoned cars still litter the roads, but will count them Thursday.

Tow, tow, tow

Throughout the South, tow trucks have been swarming over the ice, and they still have work to do.

A-Tow, which runs more than 40 trucks in metro Atlanta, reeled in 200 abandoned and wrecked vehicles from the storm Wednesday. It said 120 of the shlepps were requested by state transportation officials.

In Alabama’s hardest hit county, hundreds of vehicles still stand silent and abandoned on country roads. The streets were still impassable and closed Wednesday in Shelby County, just south of Birmingham, the Sherriff’s Department said.

Only emergency vehicles were allowed on them.

In North Carolina, at least 600 motorists called police to say they had crashed their vehicles or abandoned them.

The ice is losing

Here and in other nearby hard-hit regions, temperatures dropped into the teens one last time early Thursday. It meant one last night of black ice from Louisiana to North Carolina.

But the ice is losing the battle. At least in Atlanta, where much of it has vanished from salted roads.

More of it will melt away as the sun rises into the sky Thursday, the National Weather Service said.

Highs will climb well above freezing, and it gets even better on the weekend, when it will feel like spring again, like it often does across the South.

The snow-sleet-freezing-rain fiasco is on its way to becoming a bad memory.

Mighty loose ends

There are signs that things have markedly improved in a day.

In Alabama, 11,375 students and hundreds of teachers were trapped at their schools Tuesday night, reported.

Not anymore.

Most of the students are home now, but more than 1,600 pupils remain under school roofs.

There are other loose ends to tie up, ugly ones that may have some motorists remembering the 2014 southern snow storm for some time to come.

Body shops will be full of cars with dents, dings and smashes to straighten out after more than 1,200 ice related traffic accidents in Georgia, around 600 in Mississippi and likely a similar number in Alabama.

In that state, there will be five victims of weather-related accidents to bury. North Carolina and Mississippi had fatalities, too.

The Southern winter storm took a total of 10 lives.

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