Image: Snow removed from stadium
Stephan Savoia  /  AP
Front-end loaders remove snow from Gillette Stadium Thursday in Foxborough, Mass. Crews were preparing for Sunday's NFL football playoff game between the New England Patriots and the New York Jets.
updated 1/13/2011 9:35:47 PM ET 2011-01-14T02:35:47

New Englanders dug out from under more than 2 feet of snow and children in hundreds of Days after a few inches of snow crippled the city, children are still home from school, icy highways are still littered with hundreds of abandoned cars and grocery stores are still running low on staples such as milk and juice.

Life in Atlanta probably won't return to normal until late Friday, when temperatures finally rise above freezing. But the city's helplessness in the face of a relatively mild winter storm raises a question: Should one of the South's largest population centers have been better prepared?

Frustrated drivers and stranded travelers couldn't help but lament Atlanta's too-little, too-late response.

Story: Send, view images of the wintry blast

"You've got the busiest airport in the world, and the snow they got we would have cleaned in a matter of minutes," said Wayne Ulery, an Ohio man who was stuck at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport for three days. "They used things that we use for our driveways here trying to get the airport cleaned up."

London and Heathrow Airport had similar problems recently. Hundreds of thousands of passengers were stranded in the run-up to Christmas after a five-inch snowstorm canceled flights and ruined holiday plans. The airport's embarrassed owner had to launch an inquiry into why the snow halted traffic.

Slideshow: Snow blankets East coast (on this page)

In Atlanta, city leaders are trying to take stock of the lessons learned. Mayor Kasim Reed said the next time a storm threatens, he will recruit more private contractors to supplement Atlanta's meager fleet of 10 snowplows, and he will put them to work sooner. He also said he won't wait for the state to clear main arteries within the city limits.

"We want to send a clear signal that we are working," Reed said at a press conference. "The last few days have been tough ... But we are not hiding. This is a no-excuses situation."

Critics said the city had plenty of warning that bad weather was on the way and should have been better prepared.

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"The forecast was perfect," said state Sen. Vincent Fort. As early as Jan. 6, "we knew this was coming."

Fort said he will push the mayor's office to draft better emergency plans.

"I'm really disappointed with my city," he added. "Can we really allow our city to be paralyzed for an entire week if not more?"

State transportation officials were equally overmatched. To deal with the weather, the Georgia Department of Transportation tapped into $10 million in reserve money set aside last year. Spokeswoman Jill Goldberg said that money is probably gone after this week's storm and a smaller one last month.

"We've spent that, and we'll have to move some money around," she said. "In a normal year, that $10 million would have given us some padding. But we've had some big storms and long storms."

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The state dispatched hundreds of pieces of equipment that dumped thousands of tons of sand, salt and gravel. Exhausted road crews worked around the clock to clear roads and highways. But for all their effort, many routes were impassable until Thursday, and some drivers were stranded for more than 24 hours on Interstate 285, which encircles Atlanta.

"We understand the frustration. We understand people think it should be cleared quicker, and they're anxious to return to their normal lives," Goldberg said. "But this wasn't a snowstorm — it was an ice storm. And we had an inch, an inch and a half of solid ice on our main roads."

After it paralyzed the South, the storm moved up the East Coast, dumping more than 2 feet of snow on parts of New England. But by Thursday, much of that region was swiftly getting back to its usual routine.

In Atlanta, roads were showing signs of improvement, too, as some antsy residents emerged from their homes for the first time since Sunday. Many interstates and major thoroughfares were finally moving again.

Still, there were plenty of hazards. Hundreds of cars ditched earlier in the week jutted out into traffic, blocking plows from clearing the sides of roads. Many subdivisions were still caked in ice. And police blamed the weather for the death of a 67-year-old man whose car collided with another vehicle and then slammed into a light pole.

A few businesses were showing signs of life, but many were still shuttered. Grocery stores were packed with customers, but supplies of milk, juice, eggs and fresh fruits and vegetables ran thin.

During the storm's aftermath, stores and restaurants struggled to stay fully staffed because many employees could not get to work.

Amanda Ayers, a manager at the Tavern at Phipps, was determined not to let the snow and ice disrupt normal business, even though about half her employees were stuck at home.

"We're open every single day of the year, and the last snowstorm we were open," Ayers said. "We didn't want to break the cycle."

Sam Williams, president of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, was confident the region would rebound.

"Tractor-trailers will get back out. Shopping malls and grocery stores will be restocked," he said, calling the storm a "once-in-30-years" type of event.

Atlanta residents, long accustomed to the city's winter weather woes, are often embarrassed by the slow cleanup. Even so, many say the city cannot afford the expensive snow-response efforts of northern cities.

"Atlanta's just not prepared, and I can't blame it. It's hard to prepare for something so random," said Edward Mosely, 53, who left home for the first time in days to shop for groceries. "But when it comes, it really comes."

Anne Pippin, who works at the Internal Revenue Service in downtown Atlanta, said the city shouldn't spend money on equipment it will rarely use.

"This doesn't happen often," she said as she waited for a train at a subway station. "We can't afford to spend a quarter million dollars on each piece of equipment and have it sit around for 14 years."

But some people pointed out that other Southern cities fared much better.

Wally Kuku pulled out his Blackberry to show pictures of frigid snowscapes — and clear roads — from a trip he took Wednesday to the North Carolina mountains.

"It's funny how just a few days of snow can incapacitate this city," Kuku said. "It's totally absurd that we're totally paralyzed and they're OK."

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: East Coast thawing out after snowstorms

  1. Closed captioning of: East Coast thawing out after snowstorms

    >>> country, cities up and down the east coast are getting back to normal. some more quickly than others after this week's snowstorm. in the boston area , a state of emergency was lifted by lunchtime today . major highways are clear, although many smaller roads are still slick with black ice and snow. more than two feet fell in some parts of massachusetts. atlanta, meantime, still struggling. schools are still closed, major roads still icy. folks are using whatever they can find, including we saw today golf clubs to break up the ice.

Photos: Snow blankets the Northeast after hitting the South

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  1. A bundled up Terry Uellendahl clears snow from his cars in Albertson, N.Y., Wednesday, Jan. 12, after an overnight snowfall covered areas throughout Long Island, N.Y. (Kathy Kmonicek / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A young boy makes his way across the frozen pond in the Boston Public Gardens in Boston, Mass. on Wednesday. A snow storm passed along the east coast of the United States leaving over 15 inches in some areas, delaying travel and canceling school. (Cj Gunther / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Workers shovel snow from walkways near the Statehouse in Trenton, N.J. on Wednesday. A winter storm that shut down much of the South churned up the coast Wednesday, dumping wet, heavy snow across the Northeast. (Mel Evans / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. A Secret Service Police Officer holds his hat as the Marine One helicopter kicks up snow on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Jan. 12. President Obama is traveling to Tucson, Ariz. Wednesday for a memorial service for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others who were shot in a rampage that left six people dead. (Charles Dharapak / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A loader clears snow at New York's LaGuardia Airport on Jan. 12. New York's John F. Kennedy airport, which had 6 inches of snow, had 300 flights canceled, and LaGuardia airport saw another 650 flights canceled, officials said. (Jessica Rinaldi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. People clean snow from their cars in Silver Spring, Md, on Wednesday. (Jewel Samad / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. A man attempts to start a snow blower during a storm in Windsor, Conn. on Wednesday. (Jessica Hill / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Members of the Federyuk family shovel snow out of their driveway during a major snow storm, Jan. 12, in Greenfield, Mass. (Matthew Cavanaugh / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Some flights out of Logan International Airport in Boston are cancelled on Wednesday during a winter nor'easter storm. (Brian Snyder / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A man leaps past a snow covered bicycle while crossing a street in the Downtown Crossing in Boston on Wednesday. The Boston area is expected to receive well over a foot of snow during a day long winter storm. (Charles Krupa / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A Long Island Railroad train ticket agent checks for passengers at Manhasset in N.Y. on Jan. 12. (Shannon Stapleton / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. A resident clears the end of his driveway with a snowblower along Route 1A in Walpole, Mass., on Wednesday, Jan.12. (Matt Campbell / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A pedestrian walks along a snow covered street in Albany, N.Y., on Wednesday, Jan. 12. Plows and salt spreaders hit the streets up and down the East Coast during Wednesday morning's commute as a storm that shut down much of the South churned northward and dumped several inches of wet, heavy snow. (Mike Groll / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Snow plows work to clear Route 140 as heavy snow continues to fall in Franklin, Mass., on Wednesday. A foot of snow fell during the night in the Boston area and the Northeast. (Matt Campbell / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Gloria Maroti Frazee cross country skis through fresh snow in Central Park in New York on Wednesday, Jan. 12. "I usually bicycle in the park but it's not a great day for bicycling, so skiing it is, Maroti-Frazee said. A snowstorm that caused mayhem in the South hit the Northeast overnight. (Jonathan D. Woods / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A plow clears snow near the entrance to Prospect Park in the borough of Brooklyn in New York on Wednesday, Jan. 12. (Peter Morgan / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. A man slips while crossing the street on West 72nd Street on Wednesday, Jan. 12, in New York City. The second major snowstorm of the season to hit New York City began Tuesday in the last hours of the evening. (Andrew Burton / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. A lone pedestrian walks in the street to avoid accumulated snowfall on the sidewalks in the Harlem neighborhood of New York on Wednesday, Jan. 12. (Jonathan D. Woods / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. A man wth a bike makes his way through falling snow on Tuesday, Jan. 11, in Philadelphia. (Matt Slocum / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Truckers Bill Dougherty, left, Chis Vlad, center, and Jim Plewinski walk on Interstate 285 as their trucks sit stranded for over 24 hours from a winter storm that turned the road into a sheet of ice on Tuesday, January 11 in Atlanta. (David Goldman / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Dee Johnson speaks on a cell phone at the Greyhound bus terminal on Tuesday in Atlanta. More than 300 passengers who were stranded nby a winter storm at an Atlanta bus station were given sandwiches, blankets and bottled water from a nearby jail. Several other charities and local restaurants have also brought food. Some travelers tried to get some sleep in chairs or on the floor. (Mike Stewart / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Dewey Greer walks with his Siberian Husky, Harley, during an early morning snowfall Tuesday along the city park in Ashland, Kentucky. (John Flavell / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Ben Dodson, left, Lucas Wheeler, center, and Garry Nelson, right, make a snowman in front of the Parthenon on Monday in Nashville, Tenn. Parts of Tennessee received 13 inches of snow from the winter storm. The Parthenon is a full-scale replica of the original Greek structure. (Mark Humphrey / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. John Cox pulls Parker Cox, left, and Chew Mobley through the snow a four-wheeler in Ed Worrell Memorial Park in Texarkana, Ark., on Monday. (Christena Dowsett / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Pedestrians cross over an icy Peachtree Street after snow carpeted Atlanta, Ga., January 10. Snow and ice covered much of the Deep South on Monday, leaving one person dead in Alabama, cutting off power to around 4,000 people in Georgia and closing countless roads, authorities said. (Tami Chappell / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Traffic crawls toward Charlotte, N.C. early Monday on snow covered roads. Sleet, ice and several inches of snow blanketed states from Louisiana to the Carolinas causing at least three deaths and leaving thousands without power. (Davie Hinshaw / Charlotte Observer via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Snow falls against the backdrop of the Georgia State Capitol on Sunday, Jan. 9, in Atlanta. (David Goldman / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Davis McCool tries to catch snowflakes on his tongue while playing in the snowfall in Oxford, Miss., on Jan. 9. The snowfall in the Oxford area has caused the closing of area schools on Monday, including the University of Mississippi. (Bruce Newman / Oxford Eagle) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Cars slip and slide while trying to climb a snow-covered hill on Metropolitan Parkway in Southwest Atlanta on Jan. 9. (Ben Gray / Atlanta Journal & Constitution) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Camille Foster sleds down a small hill in her front yard in the Highland neighborhood of Shreveport, La., after a snowfall on Jan. 9. (Henrietta Wildsmith / The Shreveport Times) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Taylor Parks builds a snowman in Texarkana, Texas, Jan. 9. (Christena Dowsett / Texarkana Gazette) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Colored lights illuminate icicles that hang off the awning of a business on South Washington Street in El Dorado, Ark., on Jan. 9. A winter storm brought a wintery mix of sleet and snow to the area. (Michael Orrell / The El Dorado News-Times) Back to slideshow navigation
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Map: Cold blast

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