Southern snowstorm traps students in Alabama school

Atlanta (CNN) -- Empty streets, shuttered storefronts and abandoned vehicles littering the side of the road.

That was the scene across much of metropolitan Atlanta on Wednesday as people hunkered down to wait out the aftermath of a snow and ice storm that brought the nation's ninth largest metropolitan area to a screeching halt.

A day after up to 3 inches of snow in parts of Georgia caused horrific gridlock on ice-covered streets, particularly in Atlanta where thousands were trapped on the roads overnight, several major thoroughfares remained a mess due to lingering accidents and other problems.

In neighboring Alabama, there was a similar scene playing out.

"There are still four or five areas on our Interstates that are still treacherous. The traffic is still proceeding very slowly, but we are making progress," Gov. Robert Bentley said.

"We still have a number of students around the state that could potentially have to remain in school tonight but they will be taken care of. They will be protected. They will be fed. They will stay warm."

And as bad as things remained in parts of Georgia and Alabama early Wednesday evening, state officials feared it would only get worse as the night wore on and the temperatures dropped.

They pleaded for people to stay at home. A number of people were still trapped on roads and highways -- many of which are littered with abandoned vehicles -- that remained impassable.

"We're working on clearing the abandoned vehicles. We're just pushing them to the shoulders," said Karlene Barron of the Georgia Department of Transportation.

The interstates and ramps were being "re-treated," she said, as forecasters predicted a deep freeze overnight that will likely freeze any moisture on the roadways.

"For interstates, 100% have been cleared," Barron said. "But we haven't gotten to all the state routes, but we've pretty much touched all of the interstates. It's a very good percentage cleared."

In Georgia, the governor and the mayor acknowledged they could have planned better for the storm.

And this time, they really mean it, they said, referring to their handling of a storm three years ago.

"I'm willing to take whatever blame comes my way and, if I'm responsible for it, I will accept that," Gov. Nathan Deal told reporters.

"We all have some lessons we need to learn here from this," he said. "And I think we all will."

Thousands of schoolchildren who had been trapped on buses and in schools overnight were reunited by early Wednesday evening with their families, Deal said, adding that state troopers, police or members of the National Guard escorted many of the buses.

"Last night, we had at least 95 immobile buses. We had cleared them all by this morning, and that was a big task," he said. "Our next task was getting students home from school, and now we have achieved that."

In Alabama, the weather forced 4,500 students to spend Tuesday night in school buildings in Hoover. And 800 students were stuck overnight in schools in Birmingham, officials said.

Teachers who stayed in their classrooms overnight to care for stranded students were facing a possible redux on Wednesday night, according to Bentley, who did not say how many schoolchildren remain stranded.

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