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Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - 2:13am

Ice Covers Most Georgia Counties

We'll be posting storm announcements and stories as they comes into the GPB newsroom. Also look for our tweets (@GPBnews) and posts to our Facebook page.

UPDATE 4 p.m. The state continues to roll out additional resources to deal with the winter storm that’s hitting metro Atlanta and North Georgia.

The Georgia Department of Transportation has 360 trucks equipped with snow plows or salt-gravel spreaders that it’s deploying on state roadways. About 75 of those trucks are concentrated in the metro Atlanta area alone.

And GDOT has a message for Georgia drivers: don’t pass official state vehicles treating the roads. Stay at least 100 feet behind GDOT snow plows and sanders. On interstates, drivers should also be prepared to stick traveling in the two cleared right lanes.

The Georgia National Guard has opened its armories and has 1,000 cots at the ready, if people need to take shelter. And the Federal Emergency Management Agency has so-called “life-sustaining” supplies already assembled that it plans to store in the Atlanta area and at Fort Gordon, in the event municipalities need them.

Much of Georgia will be on lockdown for a second day Thursday as government offices, schools and many businesses hunker down under the snow and ice. Speaking at a press conference Wednesday at the state Capitol, Gov. Nathan Deal said he didn’t want to dictate to public school systems to close on Thursday. But many have already announced they will do just that.

The Atlanta Public School system will be closed, along with the Richmond County School System, which serves Augusta.

GRTA bus service is also canceled through Thursday.

In many parts of the state’s northern half, the streets have been fairly empty as people heed weather warnings. But some families are venturing out in the snow and ice.

For example, in Decatur, Ga., outside of Atlanta, Alan Cronic and his family took advantage Wednesday afternoon of the rare opportunity to sled — though they were worried about losing power.

“We’re okay. We don’t have any pine trees in our yard and those are typically the ones that are more susceptible to limb breakage, so I think we’re ok,” Cronic told GPB. “Of course, if a limb breaks up the street and it impacts us, we’re in trouble, but otherwise, we feel pretty good.”

UPDATE 2:10 p.m. - Gov. Nathan Deal is closing state government again Thursday, and is continuing to urge Georgians to stay off the roads Wednesday. Speaking at a noon press conference at the state Capitol, he said his main concern about the weather is that Georgians will think the winter storm moving through the state has peaked and will leave their homes. He said people may be deceived if they gauge the storm’s severity by simply looking out their windows.

“There is another wave in the process of coming toward us now and from the standpoint of danger, it may be even more dangerous than any of the other because it is primarily ice, associated with ice and freezing rain,” he said.

He and other state officials reiterated that the Augusta area is bearing the brunt of the storm. A state of emergency is in effect until Friday. State government will continue to be closed Friday.

State officials say the roads are largely clear because people have heeded the warning to avoid almost all travel. The Georgia Department of Transportation is warning that road conditions will continue to be dangerous in North and Middle Georgia for the rest of Wednesday. And officials there are urging Georgians to avoid all but emergency travel until at least midday Thursday.

A state of emergency remains in effect for 91 counties. As of noon, there are about 115,000 Georgia Power customers who have lost power.

UPDATE 11:40 a.m. - Gov. Nathan Deal is planning a noon briefing with the media on current conditions the state's response. You can follow Jeanne Bonner @bonnerjeanne for live updates throughout Gov. Deal's comments.

Georgia Power is reporting more than 113,000 customers without power as of 11:25 a.m. More than 70,000 of those are in Atlanta; nearly 34,000 are in the Augusta area.

The Department of Natural Resources will provide emergency shelters at state parks around Georgia. These can be used by stranded motorists and residents experiencing extended power outages. In addition to park cottages with beds, many of these parks also have heated group shelters.

The Georgia National Guard has opened 27 armory locations to use for shelter.

UPDATE 10:35 a.m. - Renell Rivers and Lamelle Levin were among the men outside a home-improvement store in downtown Atlanta Wednesday morning hoping to find work. Rivers said he was prepared to do anything from roof repairs and tree-limb removal to fixing burst pipes.

“If people need driveways and walkways shoveled out, [I'll] take care of all of that for them. Anything," Rivers said. "Somebody gets stuck here—like they just got stuck there not too long ago—I get them out of the road.”

Listen to our conversation with Rivers and Levin at our GPB blog.

The storm Georgians have been waiting for is here, and meteorologists said early Wednesday it will be even worse than expected.

The Interstate 20 corridor will be particularly hard hit by ice.

"So definitely [expect] probably a little bit higher than a half an inch across the Atlanta metro. Over at Carrollton, we've got over a quarter of an inch, pushing almost half an inch," said Dan Darbe, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Peachtree City. "But then you go east of Atlanta, we've got an inch or more [of ice forecast] as you go down the I-20 corridor toward Augusta, maybe even an inch and a half toward Augusta.

"Augusta's really going to get hit hard," Darbe said.

Meanwhile, Darbe said north Georgia could see five to 10 inches of snow. Some counties in northeast Georgia will get more than a foot of snow. He said the storm has slowed down and is pulling in even more moisture than expected.

The ice and snow will fall through Wednesday. Then, as it moves out over the coast, Darbe said there will be wrap around snow back into Georgia that could last until around noon Thursday.

Once the precipitation ends, Darbe said it won't go anywhere quickly. Temperatures are expected to drop below freezing again Thursday night, so black ice will be a factor on the roads Friday morning.