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This Week's Snowstorm Made the South Look Like a Big Cotton Field

A NASA satellite acquired this remarkable image of the punishing storm's aftereffects.


Here's something you don't see every year: a huge portion of the South lit up with snowy whiteness like the world's most ambitious cotton-growing concern.

The remarkable shot was acquired on Wednesday by NASA's Terra satellite and released last evening for public admiration. The snow's vast extent reflects the vigorous thumping that January 28's winter storm delivered to the region. Measureoholics will want to know that the now-frothing-mad Atlantans received 2.6 inches of powder, whereas parts of Tennessee got 2 inches, Georgia and South Carolina 4 inches, and North Carolina up to 9 inches. Mixed in with the flakes was also a healthy dollop of freezing rain that covered roads and vehicles like a firehose of epoxy, like this unfortunate specimen in Florida.

NASA has this clinical write-up of the storm's disabling effects:

The winter weather and the limited supply of snow-clearing equipment led to extreme travel woes throughout the region. In Atlanta, commuters faced gridlock on Tuesday afternoon as schools, businesses, and government offices all closed at approximately the same time. In many areas, roads that are normally packed with travelers ground to a complete standstill as accidents piled up. Frustrated by the gridlock, thousands of Atlantans abandoned their cars, which led to even more extreme congestion. Some children were forced to stay at school all night because the roads were impassable.

Meanwhile, the Atlanta-area office of the National Weather Service is covering its butt with this detailed timeline of weather warnings. The list shows that the agency had told Georgia's decision-makers about an incoming winter storm as early as 3:12 p.m. on Sunday. And by Monday, the bulletins had assumed a tone of urgency, with notices like "[confidence] increasing for significant snow moving in rush hour Tues. Dont wait to make plans for work/school" and "Winter precip will make travel risky across GA midday Tues into Weds. Not a bad idea to stay off the roads if you're able!"

Of course, we all know that didn't happen.

Image courtesy of NASA

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.