Weekend snowfall melts off

From Staff Reports

The snow that blanketed the area Sunday stuck around Monday forcing school closures and flight delays.

Police say slippery conditions on the road before the snowfall contributed to a fatal crash on Interstate 75 southbound early Sunday morning, according to Clayton County Police Officer Kevin Hughes.

A passenger in a car was killed when the driver swerved to avoid a five-car pile-up, and ran into a tree, Hughes said.

Ted Johnson, Jr., 18, of Stockbridge was killed.

It happened after a car stalled on I-75 southbound near Forest Parkway around 4:30 a.m., and was rear-ended by two cars. A fourth car stopped, but was hit by a fifth car, Hughes said.

The driver of the sixth car swerved to avoid the crash, skidded on the wet roadway, and hit a tree, according to Hughes. The driver involved in the fatal crash will not face charges, Hughes said.

According to the National Weather Service in Peachtree City, the rain which started earlier in the weekend turned to all snow by mid-day Sunday.

"The band of snow went from the Columbus area up through Athens," said Barry Gooden, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Gooden reported that Clayton County received two inches of snow.

The combination and timing of the cold air and moisture created the largest area-wide snow event since 1993, the weather service said. Gooden said most of the thunderstorms that occurred during the snowfall were centered around the southside of Atlanta.

Gooden said winds gusts were between 30 and 35 mph.

Sunday also brought widespread power outages across the state as ice formed on power lines and trees, causing limbs to fall, and take the lines down with them.

Overall, Georgia Power crews responded to nearly 11,000 power outages across the southern metropolitan area, which includes Clayton, Fayette and Henry counties, Georgia Power spokeswoman Carol Boatright said. Roughly 3,300 customers in Clayton County lost power, Boatright said.

"Forest Park was the hardest hit area in Clayton County," she said. "It had 3,100 customers without power on Sunday. Other than that, there were 100 power outages in the Mountain View area, and less than 100 in the Jonesboro-Riverdale area. Everything had been restored by [Sunday] night."

Statewide, there were 150,000 outages caused by the storm, but "our peak time for outages was between 7 p.m., and 8 p.m., [Sunday]," Boatright said. "There were 62,000 customers without power and that was the most we had at any one time."

As of Monday afternoon, the only power outages left in Georgia were in the Athens area, where 25,000 Georgia Power customers still had no power.

The weather socked in the airport as well.

"The winds didn't pick up until the snow dissipated," said Al Snedeker, public relations manger for Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Flights in and out of Hartsfield-Jackson were delayed between 40 minutes and four hours, Snedeker said.

"There certainly were delays throughout the day," he said. "There were also cancellations."

A number of travelers passing through the airport were forced to make arrangements with their airlines to book alternate flights, Snedeker said.

The Georgia Department of Transportation reported icy road conditions were possible throughout metro Atlanta, and on Monday urged commuters to use extreme caution. One of the trouble spots identified was Ga. Highway 3 in Clayton County.

Roughly 50,00 Clayton County students and teachers received Monday off because of the storm. School system spokesman Charles White said district officials canceled school Sunday, at 10:30 p.m., because of concerns about ice forming on local roads. Back roads were a particular concern for school system officials because they are often used by school buses, he added.

"We were not sure the roads were going to be drivable enough for our buses to safely transport our students," White said.

All 12-month employees, including administrators, staff members and maintenance workers were required to report to work two hours later than normal, White said. He said he was not sure if school was going to be open today, but said "We certainly hope so."

Meanwhile, classes were held Monday at Clayton State University, but university President Thomas K. Harden decided to not have the school open until 12 p.m., university spokesman John Shiffert said.

"The key point was the Georgia DOT sent out notice, oh, sometime around midnight, saying it was basically a good idea to stay off the roads until after the sun came up," Shiffert said. "Dr. Harden then decided to go ahead and wait until noon to open."

Shiffert said professors were given discretion about what to do about exams that were canceled because of the morning closing. He added there were no other problems reported to university officials.

Staff writers Linda Looney-Bond, Valerie Baldowski and Curt Yeomans contributed to this article.