Nightly News | January 29, 2014
>>> good evening, a winter storm has made a mess of the south. and has become a genuine natural disaster with children separated from their parents, people sleeping in stores and highways jammed with cars. the worst of it was in atlanta . and a writer for usa today has gone ahead and put the question out there. is atlanta simply meant to quit functioning every time it gets a little bit of snow? 10,000 kid were trapped at school, tonight, there is public disagreements between officials and meteorologists based on what they know and when they knew it about this storm. and tonight, the south is getting paralyzed. with its largest city, atlanta . abc's gabe gutierrez has more.
>> reporter: good evening, brian, across this road there are stretches of cars abandoned. the past 24 hours here have been chaos, and many are asking why state and local officials didn't see this coming. they watched the sunset and they watched the sunrise. a major american city, paralyzed.
>> it took us 13 hours to drive over here and we ended up sleeping at the south station in our car.
>> when it is going to be wet and cold, get the salt trucks on the road, it is not what hard.
>> i was traumatized because my car kept fish tailing and i couldn't get traction.
>> reporter: today, atlanta still working to get out of its toughest winter storm in years. cars abandoned on roads, drivers stranded on ice, children left to spend the night in their schools because the roads were too dangerous for buses and panicked parents. 90 students and some 20 staffers spent the night at the river elementary school . mark wilson walked six hours in the snow to be with his 5-year-old daughter, elizabeth.
>> just to make sure she was comfortable.
>> reporter: by 11:30 this morning, 60 children were still stuck, the children still had not slept.
>> the safety and my kids and drivers, that is what is important to me. i couldn't let them out of the building.
>> reporter: the snow began around noon yesterday and people hit the road. within an hour, traffic came to a stand still every why.
>> backed up traffic everywhere.
>> reporter: driving to atlanta , this lady had to sleep overnight in her van with a co-worker.
>> we were very, very shocked with the condition, the common feeling of helplessness and you know, what are we going to do? and trying to get to her children, this lady felt like a prisoner in her car.
>> i've had one bottle of water and no food and i have about half a tank of food left.
>> reporter: luckier drivers found food and shelter, and at home depot , exhausted travellers sought shelter in the aisles. and little grace elizabeth was born on the way to the hospital. across the state, more than 1200 accident, 70 in atlanta alone, officials began to treat roads yesterday morning, they say. but critics argue the mayor and governor were caught off guard.
>> the eyes and the nation are on the state. so i'm not going to get into the blame game.
>> what i was referring to was if the national weather service had continually had their modelling showing that the city of atlanta would not be the primary area where the storm would hit.
>> reporter: throughout the day, social media became a place to ask for help. a husband stranded, he needs his medicine. a friend stuck since 11 in the morning yesterday, looking for a cousin eight months pregnant. and a place to vent. but among the frustration came relief. good samaritans taking to the streets. and the national guard rescuing drivers and passing out pre-packaged military meals.
>> we have food and probably 20 of them left. if anybody needs help, getting from one place to the other in a short distance we can make it happen.
>> reporter: there is also relief at e rivers elementary school .
>> it is tough, but as long as the kids are safe, i'm fine.
>> reporter: where this woman made it home with her three daughters. city officials say there are lessons to learn about how they responded to this ice storm , but that the overall response was better than after the last ice storm in 2011 . that one brought this town to a standstill for four days, brian.
>> unbelievable scene throughout the atlanta area , gabe gutierrez, thank you, starting us off.