Winter Storm Takes Aim at Super Bowl City 5 Years After ‘Snow Jam’

Winter Storm Takes Aim at Super Bowl City 5 Years After ‘Snow Jam’
Abandoned cars at I-75 headed northbound near the Chattahoochee River overpass are piled up in the median of the ice-covered interstate after a winter snow storm, in Atlanta on Jan. 29, 2014. (AP Photo/David Tulis, File)
The Associated Press

ATLANTA—Five years after cars, trucks and school buses became marooned on Atlanta freeways in what became known as “snow jam,” another winter storm is threatening the city—just as thousands of fans begin pouring into town for Super Bowl 53.

A winter storm watch goes into effect Jan. 29 at 4 a.m. local time for Atlanta, a city known for grinding to a halt even in relatively light snowfalls.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Jan. 28 said state offices in more than 30 counties in the northern part of the state would be closed Jan. 29, including those in the Atlanta area.

The National Weather Service projects that up to an inch of snow is possible on Jan. 29 in Atlanta, with up to two inches in far northern suburbs. Forecasters warn of the possibility of ice-glazed roads and highways.

The potential for ice is what concerns New England Patriots fan Pamela Wales of Quincy, Massachusetts, the most, she says. During her visit to Atlanta this week, local television footage reminded her that the city and ice don’t mix well.

“They were showing all kinds of pictures on TV from 2014 when everyone got stuck,” Wales said as she toured Super Bowl exhibits at the Georgia World Congress Center on Jan. 28.

The potential for black ice is also “the overriding concern” among emergency officials, said Homer Bryson, director of the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency.

“Temperatures are going to plummet,” the governor said at Jan. 28 news conference. “It’s very similar to what we saw in 2014, where the roadways will not have time to dry off before the moisture or precipitation on them refreezes,” Kemp said. “And that’s when you have black ice, and that’s what causes wrecks, which causes gridlock and public-safety issues, injuries.”

Road crews began treating major interstates, state routes, and overpasses in north Georgia with brine—a liquid salt mixture—in anticipation of the storm.

The routes that both the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams must use to travel to and from practice venues also will be pre-treated, the Georgia Department of Transportation said in a statement.

The Super Bowl will be played Feb. 3 in downtown Atlanta in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which has a roof. The roof will be open if weather permits, officials have said.

There’s a 40 percent chance of showers for game day, but highs will be near 58 degrees (14 Celsius). That’s slightly warmer than average for Feb. 3 in Atlanta, climate records show.

But forecasters say the more immediate threat is Jan. 29, when roads could be treacherous.

“It is often easy to pass judgment on how we in Georgia deal with snow and ice, but for those from the north what you do know is that an ice event is very different than a snow event,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Jan. 28.

By Jeff Martin. Associated Press Writer Ben Nadler contributed.