It’s cold outside. Extremely cold. Metro Atlanta hasn’t seen temperatures this low in more than 10 years. Here’s what you need to know to handle it.
The Georgia Department of Transportation has been planning for this storm almost since the ice storm of 2011 that shut down much of North Georgia. GDOT’s has a storm-attack plan, plus a few words of traveling advice:
Interstates and high-volume state routes get cleared first, with particular attention to routes leading to stations of first responders and hospitals.
More than 15,000 tons of gravel and 10,000 tons of salt will be scattered across roads in an effort to melt the ice and help motorists gain traction.
GDOT will use social media to update the public on travel conditions and has put cell phones in all salt trucks and accompanying vehicles to speed responses to problem areas.
Do not pass a dump truck spreading salt or stone. Flying stone can break your windshield.
Be careful when approaching GDOT crews as they clear ice.
If a traffic signal is not working, treat it as a four-way stop.
Driving on icy roads can be particularly dangerous. Follow these suggestions:
Slow down. The posted speed limit is for driving on dry pavement. Stopping on any slick surface takes a longer distance. Keep three seconds or more between you and the vehicle in front of you.
Be gentle. Pretend there is an egg between your foot and the accelerator. This is the best way to maintain traction and avoid skids. Apply brakes gentler and allow yourself more time to stop.
Control that skid. If your rear wheels skid, simply steer where you want to go. If the front wheels skid, steer straight until you regain control. Take your foot off the gas in either case.
Be prepared. Winterize your safety kit and make sure you have it in the trunk of your car. The kit should include a flashlight, first-aid kit, water, blanket, wool cap, gloves, ice scraper and cat litter or sand to provide some traction on ice.
If you’re planning on flying out of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, be sure to check on your flight status before you head out.
In addition to checking the airline websites for flight status, you can log on to www.fly.faa.gov for real-time information on airport conditions.
Delta’s Twitter account (@DeltaAssist) allows travelers to ask for help while they are traveling and get a quick response. The airline’s website (www.delta.com) also has resources for travelers.
Southwest Airlines recommends its travelers check www.southwest.com for all updates.
“The information is being updated constantly,” said Dan Landson, airline spokesman.
With the threat of cold weather, area shelters are prepared to open their doors to the homeless.
The shelter run by the Metro Atlanta Task Force For the Homeless, which is open 24 hours a day seven days a week, is located at 477 Peachtree St. in downtown Atlanta. It also operates a hotline to assist anyone looking for emergency shelter, and accepts drop-ins and makes placements to other facilities. For information, call 404-447-3678.
“We are the single (local) 24/7 emergency facility taking in anyone and everyone during this weather emergency,” task force executive director Anita Beaty said in an email.
Janeane Schmidt, director of the Salvation Army’s Red Shield Services, said that shelter will take in as many people as it can. She said when the weather is predicted to drop below 40 degrees, the shelter opens its doors between 10-10:30 p.m. People are given a mat, wool blanket and a sack meal in the morning.
The Red Shield shelter is at 400 Luckie St. in downtown Atlanta. For information, call 404-486-2700.
The Atlanta Mission’s shelters, the Shepherd’s Inn and My Sister’s House, are open to people who need overnight or temporary shelter.
The Shepherd’s Inn is at 165 Ivan Allen Blvd. and My Sister’s House is at 921 Howell Mill Road, both in Atlanta.
MUST Ministries provides the Elizabeth Inn Emergency Night Shelter to those in need. The shelter at 55 Elizabeth Church Rd. in Marietta is open to men, women and children. For information, call 770-427-9862.
Pet owners should take special precautions with their animals during freezing temperatures. It’s best to keep all pets indoors.
Dogs that live outdoors should have a doghouse that’s elevated a few inches and has cedar shavings, straw or a blanket to trap body heat. Pets that spend time outdoors need more food because cold weather saps energy.
Cats will curl up against almost anything to stay warm, including car engines. Before you turn your engine on, check beneath the car or make plenty of noise by honking the horn.
Some animals can safely remain outside longer in the winter than others. Long-haired breeds like huskies will do better in cold weather than short-haired breeds like dachshunds. Your pet’s health also will affect how long the pet can stay out. Conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and hormonal imbalances can compromise a pet’s ability to regulate body heat.
Consider dog sweaters during walks. When outside with your pets, watch them for signs of discomfort. If they whine, shiver, seem anxious, slow down or stop moving, or start to look for warm places to burrow, they’re saying they want to get back someplace warm.
If you haven’t already taken steps to protect your plants, here a few ways to care for them during the cold weather:
Bring your smaller container plants, especially succulents, indoors. Mulch or cover outdoor plants with straw, blankets or cardboard.
To prevent heat loss from sides of containers, push together large outdoor pots and wrap the bases with plastic, burlap or a blanket.
Rosemary topiaries or potted citrus plants or roses should be moved close to the wall of your house for warmth. Cover plants such as camellias with an old sheet or, for plants taller than 3 feet, black plastic.
Be sure to turn off automatic sprinklers, detach hoses from faucets and wrap the faucets to protect outdoor pipes.
Don’t worry if plant leaves wilt; they protect themselves against cold by dehydrating themselves. Given time, most will perk back up.
If you see damage from frost (black or purple flaccid leaves or stems), particularly on woody perennials, wait until the spring to prune so as to not shear off healthy tissue.
Arctic temps and black ice on the roads could prompt schools to close. Watch Channel 2 Action News on Tuesday morning or check wsbtv.com for the latest updates on school closures.
If kids are out of school for the day, parents may be wondering what to do with their children’s exuberant energy. Here are some ideas to help pass the time and keep the peace.
Video games: Kinect, Xbox or PlayStations offer hours of fun for individuals or the entire family.
If power goes out or you’re looking for some quieter options: board games; card games; puzzles; reading (depending on age of the children, they can read to parents or the parents can read to them); baking (time to bring out those cookie recipes from Christmas).
Frozen pipes can lead to a big mess. Here are a few tips and websites for guidance on avoiding weather-related disasters at home:
Allow a small trickle of water to run overnight, preferably through a faucet on an outside wall.
Open kitchen and bathroom cabinets so warmer air can circulate below the sinks.
Know the locations of your shut-off valves, in case a pipe bursts.
For more tips, check:
City of Atlanta
404-658-6500 (press option 2)
770-479-2911 (press option 0)
770-961-2130 (press option 2)
770-949-7617 (press option 2)
770-969-3481 (press option 3)
404-612-6830 (press option 1)
770-463-3377 (press option 6)
770-964-2288 (press option 2, then option 1)
1-877-467-2262 (press option 1)
Georgia Power Company
770-429-2100 (press option 1)
Snapping Shoals EMC
770-786-3484 (press option 1)
Public transportation in bad weather can be unpredictable. While ice can really disrupt bus and train schedules, service is still possible.
The best way to check if your bus or train is running as scheduled is access the corresponding website or call the transportation authority.
Here are a few numbers where you can get up-to-the-minute information:
Cobb Community Transit
Gwinnett County Transit
770-822-5010 (press option 2)
404-463-4782 (press option 1)
— From staff reports and websites.