On the weekend of January 22-23, 2000, virtually all of north Georgia turned into a winter wonderland as an unpredicted ice storm swept through the region. The following weekend ice again made life miserable, only this time it was not just for north Georgians. More than 100,000 visitors were on their way to the Superbowl in Atlanta, Georgia.
January 22-23, 2000 Winter weather gripped north Georgia from Cedartown to Clayton including all of metro Atlanta in what experts called the worst winter storms in four years. Widespread power outages and traffic accidents strained Georgia's emergency management infrastructure whose only lucky break was that the storm struck on a relatively quiet weekend.
No Atlanta media outlets correctly predicted the weather, which only added to the problems. The Weather Channel did predict icy conditions in Georgia north of Cartersville, and did advise listeners to stay tuned because of the possibility of rapidly changing conditions, however neither they nor the National Weather Service foresaw the massive development that occurred until late Friday night.
First in the state to feel the effects of the storm was Rome, Georgia, but the wintry mix quickly spread to encompass the Georgia-Alabama border from Cedartown to Summerville. Pushing east, the storm center moved further south than expected, engulfing the entire metro Atlanta area in the icy mix by sunset on Saturday, January 22. According to Weather Channel winter storm expert Paul Kocin additional moisture from the Gulf of Mexico fed the storm and lingering cold air froze any precipitation.
Atlanta, its northern suburbs and the entire north Georgia area with the exception of the extreme northwest corner of the state fell under the massive storm, with a quarter- to half-inch thick ice hanging from virtually every surface. Drought-stricken trees lost limbs at alarming rate, and the falling branches frequently brought power lines with them. At one point a total of 675,000 homes were without power throughout the state. The hardest hit areas did not recover power until Wednesday, January 26. A state of emergency was declared by Georgia Governor Roy Barnes for Banks, Barrow, Carroll, Chattooga, Cherokee, Clayton, Dawson, DeKalb, Fannin, Forsyth, Fulton, Gilmer, Gwinnett, Habersham, Hall, Lumpkin, Oconee, Pickens, Rockdale and Stephens Counties.
The first winter storm to strike Georgia in the new millennium brought further problems as the low continued to the northeast. North and South Carolina were especially hard-hit, with nearly two feet of snow closing the Raleigh-Durham Airport. Four people died, including a 5 year-old Massachusetts girl who fell into the icy Housatonic River during the storm.
A road crew throws sand and salt on the roads surrounding the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Saturday, January 29, 2000, one day before Super Bowl XXXIV where the St. Louis Rams met the Tennessee Titans. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
January 28-30, 2000A second wave of ice descended on the area the following week, making it treacherous for visitors who were making their way to Atlanta, Georgia, for Superbowl XXXIV. While the football game at the Georgia Dome was unaffected, many nearby events and vendors suffered as normal Superbowl activities were curtailed.
Georgia came under a winter storm watch early on Friday, January 28, 2000, when snow began falling near the Alabama border. As the storm drifted eastward dryer air absorbed the snow. It was not until Friday night that moisture in the form of freezing rain began to reach the ground throughout most of north Georgia. A sheet of ice coated major roads throughout the region, causing massive pile-ups including a 47-car wreck on I-20 west of Atlanta.
The rain continued for much of the day Saturday as temperatures hovered near the freezing mark, forming a quarter-inch thick coating of ice on most surfaces. Traffic remained snarled throughout much of the day and visitors who had made their way to this Southern Gateway city for the Superbowl remained indoors.
Rick Kearney, President of the Marietta Business Association said, "While we were expecting some additional sales thanks to the Superbowl, most of the merchants in Marietta were struggling just to get their business open." Power outages and downed tree limbs caused extensive damage. Particularly hard hit were the older areas, like downtown Marietta. Kearney complimented Cobb EMC on the work they did to get power back to the Marietta Square area.