TODAY   |  January 29, 2014

Rare snowstorm cripples Georgia

As a winter storm grips the Southern U.S., nearly 2,000 students spent the night in a Georgia school and at least 900 accidents were reported across the state. Six states have declared a state of emergency. The Weather Channel’s Managing Editor Sam Champion reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> do we have a weather story.

>> the news is the weather, and especially down south, the storm is so devastating. they don't have enough salt or plows to deal with this weather.

>> they're not used to it like we are up north. things are bad, a number of school districts issued shelters in place. nearly 2,000 students had to spend the night inside their schools, 600 in birmingham, alabama .

>> six states from louisiana to north carolina have declared a state of emergency . and in georgia alone, crews have already responded to more than 900 accidents.

>> what a day. well, our weather team is al, dylan dreyer, sam champion , have it all covered this morning. we're going to begin with sam down in atlanta . good morning to you.

>> reporter: good morning, savannah. and it is every state in the southeast that was affected by this winter storm . let me show you here in atlanta what the scene is like in most of the south. this snow stopped at about 8:00 last night, but this morning, take a look at the interstate, we're on the 17th street bridge in atlanta . all of the trucks pulled off the side of the road . there are cars still abandoned on interstate. then let me show you this. take a look at the snow packed here. it's not a lot of snow, but it's all still on the ground. and the roads are even worse . what looks glazed and shiny right there in the middle of the road 's surface, that is ice, it's not a thick layer of ice, it's a thin layer of ice, but it's still on the roads and it's not just the roads in atlanta , it's the roads throughout the south. snow and icy roads paralyzed atlanta after the quick onset of a midday storm that even though well forecast took the city by surprise. interstates completely gridlocked as drivers clogged the icy roads to get home early. for some, it turned into an endless commute, hundreds of drivers stuck in traffic for up to 18 hours.

>> the cars just stopped moving. and this is where i've sat from from -- for about the last five hours.

>> as a result, some parents couldn't get to their kids left stranded at school. hundreds of marietta high school students in atlanta were even forced to spend the night. one concerned parent tweeting, my daughter is stuck, she's run out of food and it's cold out there. somebody needs to do something asap. georgia's governor addressing the issue.

>> we have several major areas of concern because some of the schools had not released their students early enough.

>> the same thing happening in other southern states . look at hoover, alabama , where dozens remained in school overnight.

>> let them have some technology time. we've also encouraged them to do their homework.

>> and more trouble on the roads. in jackson, mississippi, an 18-wheeler on its side. in alabama , a truck jackknifed on an icy bridge shutting it down. hundreds of accidents and abandoned cars. up to 50 million feeling the rare winter blast, conditions that some areas of the country wouldn't think twice about now causing the south to nearly shut down. the reason, fewer resources to cope with the snow and less experience driving in it.

>> nothing that we see very often.

>> reporter: and because of that, the message from every official throughout the south is stay in today. temperatures will barely get to the freezing mark. we may get to 30, 32 degrees in atlanta , but the following day we're going to 40 and by saturday it's 60. that 60-degree mark is something to look ahead to, it does not help anyone today.

>> nice to have a light at the end of the tunnel . sam champion in atlanta .