Gov. Sonny Perdue declared a state of emergency in Georgia on his final night in office as the state braced for a blast of winter weather expected to dump snow and coat roadways with ice.
As his final act as governor before Nathan Deal is inaugurated Monday morning as his successor, Perdue issued the executive order Sunday night hours before the storm was supposed to hit.
Deal had already canceled an inaugural gala scheduled for Monday night and moved his afternoon inauguration ceremony inside the Capitol.
“We believe the safety of the Georgia public is primary,” Deal said at a Sunday afternoon news conference. “We are encouraging everyone who was coming to stay off the roads. We don’t want disappointment to change into catastrophe.”
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Georgia was expecting up to 6 inches of snow as the powerful winter storm moved into the state Sunday night. Forecasters said the front could also bring sleet and freezing rain lasting into Tuesday.
Across the state, cities readied for the weather Sunday: School districts and colleges canceled classes, salt and sand trucks were brought out and residents flocked to grocery stores for last-minute provisions. The Georgia Supreme Court canceled oral arguments scheduled for Monday.
Hundreds of flights were canceled at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport ahead of the storm.
Delta Air Lines canceled 330 flights starting about 8 p.m. Sunday and another 1,400 flights Monday. AirTran Airways canceled 14 flights for Sunday and 270 for Monday, spokesman Christopher White said.
Both airlines are allowing passengers whose flights are canceled to change them without fees.
The Georgia Department of Transportation brought in additional salt, sand and gravel from south Georgia, spokeswoman Teri Pope told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Transportation crews were told to report to work at 6 p.m. Sunday and another 200 people were on call in Atlanta and other cities across the state.
“There is no fooling around,” Pope told the newspaper.
For the inauguration, viewing rooms will be set up in the Capitol because of limited seating in the House chambers. The 2:30 p.m. ceremony will also be broadcast on Georgia Public Television and live online at http://www.dealinaugural.com/tv.php.
Deal said he decided to go ahead with the inauguration because he wanted to be sworn in on the day the new General Assembly started.
Deal said the gala and the prayer service will be rescheduled for the spring. All 4,000 tickets sold for the $50-per-person gala will be refunded.