WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) -- Thousands of cars and buses were stranded in Atlanta, capital of the U.S. state of Georgia, as snow and ice brought along by a rare winter storm made roads impassable, forcing many people in the city to sleep in offices and hotels, local media reported Wednesday.
Just weeks after a system of cold air known as a polar vortex left nearly half of the country shivering, governors of the Deep South -- Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana - - and North Carolina declared states of emergency this week as the cold arctic air returned. Parts of the Deep South recoiled under cold weather they rarely experience. Among them, the states of Georgia and Alabama were the hardest hit.
Thousands of cars were stranded in an over-24-hour gridlock in Atlanta, the nation's 9th largest metropolitan area, since Tuesday afternoon. Many of the drivers had to abandon their cars to seek shelter or walk back home, while many others were still holed up in their cars till Wednesday morning waiting for relief. Some school children were stuck on the roads or in their schools Tuesday evening, said local media reports.
Across Georgia, at least 940 road accidents were confirmed, leaving more than 100 people injured and one more dead, while five other people died in weather-related traffic accidents in Alabama, according to local media reports.
In response to the freak weather, more than 50 shelters opened across the state of Georgia to provide shelter for people stranded on the roads. Home Depot stores in Georgia and Alabama and some other supermarkets and drug stores also stayed open overnight to provide shelter for stranded people.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed on Wednesday urged local residents to stay at home and stop driving for at least one more day, giving the local government time to clean up.
Nationwide, more than 3,500 flights were delayed and over 1,400 canceled because of the frigid air by Wednesday morning, according to flights-tracking website Flightaware.