Deep South Deep Freeze: Buses sent to pick up stranded motorists

Updated 2:21 AM EST, Wed January 29, 2014

Story highlights

NEW: 4,500 students will spend the night in Hoover, Alabama, schools

NEW: Atlanta's mayor urges drivers to stay off streets for 24 hours

NEW: More than 3,200 flights have been canceled, FlightAware says

At least 5 were killed in weather-related traffic accidents in Alabama

Are you affected by the frigid weather? Send CNN iReport your photos and video of ice, snow and sleet if you can do so safely.

Atlanta CNN —  

[Breaking news update 2:23 a.m. ET Wednesday]

(CNN) – Officials in Hoover, Alabama, were sending buses early Wednesday morning to pick up stranded motorists.

In the first run, two school buses were sent to transport as many as 100 people to local shelters, said Rusty Lowe of the Hoover fire department.

The buses will make several runs.

[Breaking news update 1:08 a.m. ET Wednesday]

About 50 Atlanta school children were still stuck on buses early Wednesday morning.

The students had gotten on buses to get home shortly after noon Tuesday, but treacherous road conditions coupled with gridlocked traffic has made it impossible.

Kimberly Willis Green, spokeswoman for Atlanta Public Schools, said she did not have an estimate on the number of children stuck in Atlanta schools overnight.

Atlanta-based Home Depot opened up 26 stores in Alabama and Georgia for stranded travelers.

Spokesman Stephen Holmes said some of those who sought shelter spent time watching movies in store break rooms.

“At one store, they even opened up an indoor garden area to be a quiet area to open for reading,” he said.

[Last update 10:37 p.m. ET Tuesday]

Ice and snow bring chaotic commutes to much of South

(CNN) – Cars stuck in ditches beside icy roads. Thousands of children stranded at schools that parents can’t reach. Drivers camped out at gas stations with no way to get home.

As a winter storm slammed into a broad swath of the South on Tuesday, authorities warned drivers to stay off the streets.

“This is a very dangerous situation,” Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said. “People need to stay at home. They need to stay there until conditions improve.”

Motorists in major metropolitan areas including Atlanta sat trapped in gridlock as schools and offices shut down, unleashing hordes of vehicles onto slushy roadways.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed urged residents to stop driving for at least a day to give crews a chance to clean up.

“The next 24 hours, I really need folks to stay home,” he told CNN affiliate WSB. “Go home, give us some time.”

While Northerners may laugh at their Southern friends’ panic over a dusting of snow, the threat is real: With relatively few resources to battle snow and ice, public works crews may have a difficult time keeping up with any significant accumulation.

Add to that the fact that millions of Southern drivers aren’t used to driving on snow or ice, and things got messy – fast.