Round 2: Many stay home as Ga. braces for storm

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Mayor of Atlanta Kasim Reed checks on progress at the Public Works North Avenue Facility as Atlanta prepares for another approaching winter storm on Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/ Atlanta Journal & Constitution, Curtis Compton)

Mayor of Atlanta Kasim Reed checks on progress at the Public Works North Avenue Facility as Atlanta prepares for another approaching winter storm on Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/ Atlanta Journal & Constitution, Curtis Compton)

Mayor of Atlanta Kasim Reed, left, checks on progress at the Public Works North Avenue Facility with Commissioner of Public Works Richard Mendoza as Atlanta prepares for another approaching winter storm on Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/ Atlanta Journal & Constitution, Curtis Compton)

The first city trucks are loaded with rock & salt to begin rolling out to prepare roads for approaching winter weather at the Public Works North Avenue Facility on Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/ Atlanta Journal & Constitution, Curtis Compton)

State agencies prepare for the approaching winter weather at the Georgia Emergency Management Agency State Operations Center on Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Atlanta. During the meeting Dale Brantley, with the GDOT, said “one of the big issues we are dealing with right now is salt supply.” Orders were apparently placed last week, but all of them have not been received yet. Brantley said they expected orders to be delivered throughout the night and into tomorrow. (AP Photo/ Atlanta Journal & Constitution, Curtis Compton)

Jennifer Poulos reaches in the dairy shelves, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Atlanta.On Monday, officials were quick to act as the winter weather zeroed in. Before a single drop of freezing rain or snow fell, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal had declared a state of emergency for nearly a third of the state, schools canceled classes and workers were told to stay home. (AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, John Spink) MARIETTA DAILY OUT; GWINNETT DAILY POST OUT; LOCAL TV OUT; WXIA-TV OUT; WGCL-TV OUT.

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ATLANTA (AP) — Forecasters issued an unusually dire winter storm warning Tuesday for much of Georgia, but many residents already were heeding advice to stay home and off the roads, leaving much of metro Atlanta a ghost town during the usually busy morning commute.

The storm could be a “catastrophic event” reaching “historical proportions,” the National Weather Service said in its warnings. Rain was falling Tuesday morning in Atlanta, with snow in north Georgia, and schools were canceled.

“Basically, everyone from the office is going to be working from home” on Tuesday, said Dakota Herrera as he left a car park in downtown Atlanta to go to his office Monday.

It was a stark contrast to the storm that hit Atlanta two weeks earlier. Downtown streets of the South’s business hub were jammed with unmoving cars, highway motorists slept overnight in vehicles or abandoned them where they sat, and students were forced to camp out in school gymnasiums when roads turned too treacherous for buses to navigate.

With many at home instead of work or schools, the biggest threat in the current storm could be power outages. Forecasters say they’re likely to be widespread as ice builds on trees and power lines. The ice threat is expected to begin in Georgia overnight. As much as 9 inches of snow could fall in parts of north Georgia by Wednesday night.

Atlanta has a long and painful history of being ill-equipped to deal with snowy weather. Despite officials’ promises after a crippling ice storm in 2011 that they would be better prepared next time, the storm that hit the area Jan. 28 proved they still had many kinks to work out.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal indicated on Monday that he and other state officials had learned their lesson. Before a single drop of freezing rain or snow fell, Deal declared a state of emergency for nearly a third of the state and state employees were told they could stay home if they felt conditions were too dangerous. Schools canceled classes, and Deal urged people who didn’t need to be anywhere to stay off the roads. Tractor-trailer drivers were handed fliers about the weather and a law requiring chains on tires in certain conditions.

“We are certainly ahead of the game this time, and that’s important,” Deal said. “We are trying to be ready, prepared and react as quickly as possible.”

That kind of reassurance was a hard sell with some.

“I’m not counting on it,” said Terri Herod, who bought a large bag of sand and a shovel at local hardware store. “I’ve been in Georgia on and off for 20 years. It’s usually the same scenario: not enough preparations and not enough equipment.”

Memories of the last storm are still painfully fresh. Students were trapped on buses or at schools and thousands of cars were abandoned along highways as short commutes turned into odysseys. One woman gave birth on a jammed interstate. Officials reported one accident-related death.

The current storm was expected to hit other parts of the South as well. Alabama, which saw stranded vehicles and 10,000 students spend the night in schools during the January storm, was likely to get a wintry mix, with as much as 3 inches of snow and ice forecast before lunchtime Tuesday. Parts of Mississippi also could see 3 inches of snow, and a blast of snow over a wide section of Kentucky slickened roads and closed several school districts. South Carolina, which hasn’t seen a major ice storm in nearly a decade, could get a quarter to three-quarters of an inch of ice and as much as 8 inches of snow in some areas. Nearly 900 flights were canceled Tuesday at airports in Atlanta, Dallas and Charlotte, N.C., according to tracking service FlightAware.

On Monday, Deal was doing many things differently than he had last month. He opened an emergency operations center and held two news conferences before the

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