The Heat Is Online

Ice Storms Snarl Super Bowl Plans

Atlanta feeling a little bit under the weather

The Boston Globe, Jan. 30, 2000

ATLANTA - Weather continues to be the biggest story in Atlanta. Most schools were closed Friday because there was a forecast of snow. Not a single flake fell until after 4 p.m. and there was no accumulation.

More ice resulted in hundreds of traffic accidents, including a 47-car pileup on Interstate 20. Interstate 85 was one of six highways closed early yesterday. Forecasters expected more freezing rain through last night.

The weather made it especially difficult for fans to make it to the game. Delta, which is based in Atlanta, canceled hundreds of flights, and there was little air service between Nashville and Atlanta. Many Titans fans made the 250-mile drive. St. Louis fans had to drive 550 miles to make it to Peachtree Street.

Titans under cover

Because of the ice storm, the Titans were forced to use the interview tent outside their hotel for something other than answering inane questions.

Fearing the road conditions that would have accompanied their trip to the Georgia Dome, where practice was scheduled, the AFC champions instead held their one-hour Super Bowl eve walk-through in the tent. It was not a drastic inconvenience.

Like Rogers and Astaire in sweats, teams often hold their walk-throughs in hotel ballrooms during the season. But because space was booked solid, no facility at the Titans' hotel could accommodate 53 behemoths.

Coach Jeff Fisher, whose traveling minstrel show had been housed in makeshift headquarters for the past two years while waiting for a permanent home, Adelphia Stadium in Nashville, wasn't bothered in the least.

''We spent half our lives in trailers,'' he said, ''so to do a walk-through in a heated tent is no problem for us at all.''

The Titans, who began the week practicing at Georgia Tech, got acclimated to the dome with a Friday practice that Fisher considered sufficient exposure to the venue for tonight's game against St. Louis.

''That really helped us, having the chance to go over to the dome and get on the turf,'' Fisher said. ''It's important when you get the opportunity to work in a dome, so everything worked for us.''

And quarterback Steve McNair, hampered for weeks by turf toe, at least didn't develop a case of tent toe.

''He's better today than he was last Saturday,'' said Fisher.

The Rams didn't even bother improvising. They simply canceled their 45-minute workout at the Dome, which finally gave effervescent coach Dick Vermeil something to complain about.

''I didn't want to cancel it,'' he said of the 10 a.m. practice. ''I wanted them to go over there and get in that locker room and share the feeling of being together in the locker room where we go to battle tomorrow evening.''

The cancellation of practice may have an effect on today's game because St. Louis kicker Jeff Wilkins is still nursing a sore knee on his left (plant) leg. Wilkins did not kick Friday, and Vermeil was close to signing Nick Lowery out of retirement during the week. Wilkins is expected to give it a go today, as is center Mike Gruttadauria, who missed Thursday's workout with the flu.

Compiled by Bob Duffy, Dan Shaughnessy, and Michael Madden of the Globe Staff.

Winter doesn't stop Super Bowl
Julie Galle and Donna Pistilli Sauer,, Jan. 30, 2000

Ice, sleet and snow isn. t enough to keep tens of thousands of Super Bowl fans away from the NFL championship game set for 6 p.m. EST tonight. The winter storm that created those weather conditions did make it difficult for some to get to the Super Bowl host city, Atlanta. It. s also keeping fans wrapped in coats, hats and gloves as they celebrate up to game time.

Freezing rain was still coming down in Atlanta at 9 a.m. on Sunday, making football fans happy that the Super Bowl and game parties would take place indoors. Meteorologists expected the precipitation to end later today, with partly cloudy skies and a temperature of 35 degrees in place by kick-off.

From Oklahoma to Georgia, the winter storm coated roads with snow and ice during the past few days, creating treacherous driving conditions that were still in place Sunday morning. Around Atlanta, icy roads were reported north of the I-285 perimeter at 8:30 a.m. EST, and hazardous driving conditions were reported on I-85 at Hwy 400. Bridges and overpasses were said to be slick and icy. People were urged to stay off the roads unless they absolutely had to go out. Motorists needing to brave the roads can call 404-635-6800 for information about road conditions. Mobile phone users can dial *DOT.

Delta Airlines canceled a few flights at Atlanta. s Hartsfield International Airport on Sunday morning due to freezing rain in the area overnight. Light freezing rain still in the area at 8 a.m. led to flight delays of up to an hour.

Sunday was the third day that Delta cancelled flights into and out of Atlanta. On Friday, the carrier cancelled 40 percent of its flights, and it canceled about a third of its flights on Saturday, as freezing rain left a coating of ice across much of north Georgia.

"Obviously safety is the issue here. We can only deice (a certain) number of planes an hour," said Delta spokeswoman Alesia Watson on Saturday. She added that the airline would rather cancel flights sooner than later, to avoid leaving passengers stranded in the airport.

Despite sleet and freezing rain that moved into the area on Friday, fans still packed Atlanta for the Super Bowl. During the game weekend, icy sidewalks and biting cold temperatures challenged revelers who set out to celebrate the game and a little team rivalry in the streets of Atlanta. A challenge as the conditions may be, they. re stopping few fans from raising Super Bowl fever as the game nears.

With all those guests in the city, the Georgia Department of Transportation wasted no time in treating the roads. An army of salt spreaders, snowplows and chainsaws took to the streets as soon as the precipitation started Friday night.

The Georgia Dome is also making sure roads are safe for game-goers. The facility has its own fleet of salt trucks and plows to clear roads around the stadium.

Storm's far-reaching effects

The storm system that brought the messy weather to the Southeast this weekend affected a large portion of the nation over the past several days.

The winter storm dropped more than a foot of snow on portions of Oklahoma and Arkansas Wednesday and Thursday before heading eastward. The storm brought the first measurable snow to Little Rock, Arkansas since 1997, and the heaviest in the state in 12 years, according to the National Weather Service.

The system then spread into Mississippi, bringing as much as a foot of snow to areas near Tupelo, in the northern portion of the state.

More than 80 traffic accidents occurred in northern Alabama Friday as the winter storm moved in. It spread three to five inches of snow and ice across western Alabama before moving into Georgia Friday night.

Saturday afternoon, icy conditions stretched from Atlanta northward to eastern Kentucky, where dozens of traffic accidents were reported. Snow from the system reached all the way to the southern Great Lakes, where several inches could accumulate from Indianapolis to Chicago by Sunday.

The system was forecast to move eastward by Sunday, taking the messy weather with it. Its next targets will be the Carolinas, where significant icing is expected, and the Mid-Atlantic, where several inches of snow could fall Sunday, forecasters say.