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Winter Storm Pax, a potentially “catastrophic” weather storm hitting the Atlanta area on Wednesday, is under full effect and causing some major damage already.

Temperatures have dropped below freezing and sleet and rain have begun to fall. Fortunately, however, the Atlanta area is better prepared for the weather conditions, as city officials are determined to avoid a repeat of the gridlock nightmare the city experienced a couple of weeks ago.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed in a news conference at the Georgia Emergency Management Agency’s special operations center Tuesday evening implored people to get somewhere safe and stay there.

“The message I really want to share is, as of midnight tonight, wherever you are, you need to plan on staying there for a while,” Reed said. “The bottom line is that all of the information that we have right now suggests that we are facing an icing event that is very unusual for the metropolitan region and the state of Georgia.”

Damage, however, isn’t being curbed. Georgia Power has already reported thousands of power outages around the state. And forecasters and officials said the number of outages would likely grow throughout the day.

In fact, according to The Weather Channel, at least 170,000 customers are now without power due to winter storm; more than half that total is in Georgia.

Forecasters say there remained some uncertainty about where the heaviest ice would falls, but amounts along the Interstate 20 corridor east of Atlanta “are bumped up a little” to over an inch, they said in the memo issued before dawn Wednesday.

Jim Cantore, reporting for The Weather Channel from Augusta, said about 1/8 of an inch of ice had already accumulated on trees early Wednesday morning.

“The fact that we have sleet now means major problems for the roads,” Cantore said.

Snow is expected to accumulate to about a foot, but forecasters say it’s the ice that will have “catastrophic impacts.” And Eli Jacks, a meteorologist with National Weather Service, is reminding the public that forecasters use words such as “catastrophic” sparingly.

“Sometimes we want to tell them, ‘Hey, listen, this warning is different. This is really extremely dangerous, and it doesn’t happen very often,'” Jacks said.

The service’s memo early Wednesday called the storm “an event of historical proportions.”

It continues: “Catastrophic … crippling … paralyzing … choose your adjective.”

Jack said three-quarters of an inch of ice would be catastrophic anywhere. But the Atlanta area and other parts of the South are particularly vulnerable: Many trees and limbs hang over power lines. When ice builds up on them, limbs snap and fall, knocking out power.

State officials aware of how dangerous the ice can be aren’t the only ones preparing for a historic storm.

“Last time, I was totally unprepared. I was completely blindsided,” said Lisa Nadir, of Acworth, who sat in traffic for 13 hours and then spent the night in her car when the storm hit Jan. 28. “I’m going to be prepared from now on for the rest of my life.”

Stay safe out there!

SOURCE: The Weather Channel | VIDEO SOURCE: News, Inc.

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