Thousands of people were stranded Wednesday — some of them sitting 18 hours or more on highways brought to a standstill across Atlanta — one day after a rare winter storm swept across an unprepared South.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said he did not know how many people were still stuck. He did say all the schoolchildren were safe after some of them were marooned overnight on buses caught in the jam.

Some drivers told NBC News that they had been stuck on Atlanta interstates since early Tuesday afternoon, when snow started to fall and people began leaving work early. At least one baby was born in the gridlock.

Read stories from the gridlock

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Tim Dougherty said from Interstate 285, north of the city, where he had been stranded for 18 hours and could see only a string of tail lights on Wednesday morning. “I’ve got to say for a city this is an epic failure.”

Reed pointed out that there had been no deaths on the Atlanta roads. He grew testy with reporters who asked him to grade the city’s response. He also said the interstates were the responsibility of the state government, not the city.

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