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ATLANTA — With memories of thousands of vehicles gridlocked for hours on icy metro Atlanta highways fresh in their minds, officials north Georgia prepared today for another round of winter weather, with the governor declaring a state of emergency for 14 counties.
Gov. Nathan Deal, who was criticized for his response to the Jan. 28 storm that paralyzed the metro area and left motorists stranded in vehicles overnight, tweeted early today about the weather-related emergency declaration and said it would be expanded as necessary. In a statement Sunday, he said he had put emergency response agencies on alert and begun significant preparations.
The governor scheduled a news conference for noon today to further discuss winter storm preparations.
The National Weather Service issued a winter weather watch from 7 p.m. today through 7 p.m. Tuesday and a winter storm watch from Tuesday evening through Thursday morning for the metro Atlanta area.
The storm has potential to reach beyond Atlanta and Georgia into other parts of the South. Forecasters said Alabama, which also saw stranded vehicles and other issues in the January storm, was likely to get a wintry mix of precipitation. Areas of Mississippi could see three inches of snow late today through noon Tuesday. And a blast of snow over a wide section of Kentucky slickened roads and closed several school districts.
Rain was expected late today in north Georgia, with predictions that it would change to snow by Tuesday morning and mix with sleet during the day. Snow was expected from Tuesday night through Thursday morning. Snow will likely accumulate, making driving conditions hazardous.
Emergency officials throughout the area have been urging residents to prepare their homes and vehicles.
State and local officials were widely criticized two weeks ago for what critics called a sluggish and inadequate response to the threat of severe weather that left tens of thousands of motorists stuck in their cars for hours and at least 280 students forced to sleep on their school buses because of icy, gridlocked roads.
The governor has apologized and last week announced the formation of a task force to develop recommendations on how the state can be better prepared and better equipped the next time severe weather hits metro Atlanta. He also called for various internal and external reviews and wants a new public alert system for severe weather, similar to what’s used for missing and endangered children.