The snow has ended, the sun is out and temperatures have climbed above freezing, and state transportation officials, while still advising motorists that it would be best to stay off the roads, are now tempering their warnings.
“We are still encouraging folks to stay off, but I don’t think the concern is as high as it was before,” said Karlene Barron, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Transportation.
Traffic volume was already starting to tick upward at midday, and GDOT officials cautioned people who have ventured out to stay back from snowplows. Bridges and overpasses continue to be icy, Barron said.
“Hopefully we can move off quite a bit of that slush and have less refreezing tonight, but we still caution there is going to be some of that tomorrow morning because there is a lot of water,” Barron added.
Meanwhile, 347,000 utility customers had no power Thursday afternoon as ice-laden trees and power lines continued to fall.
Gov. Nathan Deal Thursday afternoon extended the state of emergency declared for 91 Georgia counties through Sunday evening.
Here’s what you need to know on Day 2 of the ice and snow storm that brought much of north and central Georgia to a standstill:
We will see the sun again
As predicted by Channel 2 meteorologist David Chandley. Thursday morning’s lingering flurries ended before well before noon, and the sun began peeking out around 10 a.m.
Temperatures were above freezing metro-wide at noon, ranging from 35 in Alpharetta and Dunwoody and 35 in Chamblee to 37 in Marietta and at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and 38 in Peachtree City.
The mercury will top out in the mid- to upper 40s Thursday afternoon, Chandley said. Winds gusting up to 35 mph will help melt some of the snow as temperatures rise, Chandley said.
Lows Thursday night will be back below freezing, though, bottoming out in the upper 20s.
Friday will be mostly cloudy, with a 30 percent chance of evening showers. Highs in the upper 40s will be followed by lows Friday night in the low 40s.
The weekend should be sunny, with highs in the upper 40s Saturday and mid-50s Sunday, and lows in the 30s.
Roads and traffic
GDOT traffic cameras showed metro interstates nearly deserted during what would normally be the height of the morning rush hour, but traffic had noticably increased by early afgternoon.
Chandley said that with late-morning sunshine and temperatures above freezing, main highways that have been treated and scraped by road crews should be fairly clear. “Less-treated roads, no so much,” Chandley said, adding that some refreezing is possible Thursday night.
Between 2 a.m. Wednesday and 9 a.m. Thursday, Georgia State Patrol troopers were called to 305 storm-related highway crashes in middle and north Georgia that left 36 people hurt but no one dead.
According to the GSP, 51 of those wrecks and four of those injuries were in metro Atlanta.
MARTA bus service was suspended for Thursday, as were Cobb Community Transit buses. MARTA began limited rail service at 8 a.m.
On Friday, MARTA is planning to run a modified bus schedule and mobility services beginning at 7 a.m. Rail service will run on a weekend schedule.
Virtually all schools and colleges across metro Atlanta remained closed Thursday. Many school districts will also remain closed Friday, though some were already scheduled to have the day off as part of a winter break.
Georgia Power officials reported 218,000 customers without electricty, while another 118,000 customers of the state’s electric membership cooperatives were also without power.
Power had already been restored to 159,000 Georgia Power customers and 51,000 EMC customers by Wednesday night, bringing the total number of utility customers affected by the ice and snow storm to more than a half-million.
Staff writers Rhonda Cook, Andria Simmons, Alexis Stevens and Michael Kanell contributed to this article.