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Fears of icy roads close schools, puts crews on alert
DOT reports some slick spots on roads; no major traffic problems so far
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A student walks through the blowing snow on the Brenau University campus. - photo by Tom Reed

Weather-related closings

Snow a mixed bag for residents

National Weather Service forecast

Tonight: Snow showers likely before 1 a.m., then a chance for flurries. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 21. West wind between 10 and 15 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%. Total nighttime snow accumulation of less than one inch possible.

Friday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 33. West wind around 15 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph.

Friday night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 19. West wind between 5 and 10 mph, with gusts as high as 15 mph.

 

The snow that fell in Northeast Georgia on Thursday made for some picturesque winter scenes, but raised concerns about icy roads this morning for commuters.

For that reason, schools in Gainesville and Hall County are closed today, a day after students were sent home early to get ahead of the snow.

“Temperatures are falling and secondary roads in the northern part of the county are currently treacherous,” Superintendent Will Schofield said in an e-mail Thursday evening.

The afternoon flurries carried into Thursday evening, but light accumulation kept traffic problems to a minimum. Hall County public safety officials said many motorists heeded warnings to stay off the roads Thursday night as temperatures plunged and some roads grew slick with black ice.

Today could be a different story. The hazards of icy spots on less-traveled secondary roads are the biggest concern, with Hall County working on a priority list of which roads get applications of gravel and salt, said Emergency Management Director David Kimbrell.

A few minor accidents were reported, but much of Gainesville was a “ghost town,” with very little vehicular traffic, Kimbrell said.

“Hopefully folks will stay in in the morning,” Kimbrell said.

Hall County Sheriff’s Col. Jeff Strickland said there were two weather-related accidents involving overturned cars Thursday night — one on Chestatee Road and another on Skitts Mountain Road — but no injuries. Salt and stone later were applied to the affected roads.

Another accident involving a car on its side on Ga. 60 two miles north of Fieldale Farms also was reported shortly before 9 p.m. There were no injuries.

Strickland said Thursday night that some secondary roads in North Hall had accumulations of snow. He said officials were bracing for the possibility of some black ice this morning, particularly on bridges and overpasses.

“We urge anyone out in the morning to use extreme caution,” Strickland said. “It can be especially dangerous in intersections.”
Today’s forecast is for sunny skies but stiff winds and a high of only 33, so what remains of the snow and ice may be slow to melt.

Temperatures will drop back to the low 20s or high teens tonight.
Georgia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Teri Pope said at 10 p.m. that there are “spotty reports of icing throughout the region.” DOT crews put salt on bridges and all multilane state routes, including interstates.

Pope said DOT officials are “still very concerned” about icing in the morning, expecting that it could occur “anywhere there is moisture.”

“Temperatures are expected to continue to fall the rest of the day, so any moisture we get will refreeze overnight, creating black ice,” she said.

“We are also concerned that as ice forms and weighs down trees, we will have an epidemic of fallen trees. They are weak from a two-year drought and our recent deluge has only weakened root systems more.”

The DOT urges people to check road conditions and forecasts before heading out. Motorists can dial 511 or visit Georgia Navigator for updates.

“Stay at home, off the roads, if you can,” Pope said.

Street maintenance crews with the Gainesville Public Works Department planned to run four routes to check road conditions, department director David Dockery said. Dockery said his crews will pre-treat Athens Street, Lakeview Drive, Ramsey Road and Old Flowery Branch Road bridges. They also will plow and spread sand along secondary roads while the state DOT handles the main routes through town.

Residents can report dangerous road conditions to the Street Maintenance Division at 770-532-0379.

Power companies also were keeping a close watch on the snowfall.

“We have crews that we’re ready to send out if needed,” said Jeff Wilson, spokesman for Georgia Power.

Bonnie Jones, spokeswoman for Jackson Electric Membership Corp., said crews are on standby ready to respond to weather emergencies.

“All of our employees are on alert … our line crews and our office workers,” she said. “If we have any outages, it will take everyone to handle that. The trucks have been stocked and we’re just waiting to see (what will happen).”

Gainesville and Hall County students were among many in area systems who went home early Thursday to avoid weather problems.
While students were glad to see school let out early, some parents felt differently.

Jennifer King, who has a 9-year-old daughter, Abbie Seabolt, at Riverbend Elementary, said she took the day off to celebrate her daughter’s birthday and to care for her instead of working at her job in Dahlonega.

“It’s good for them, bad for parents because you can’t just walk away from work,” King said. “But I’m glad I knew yesterday. Especially for single moms, it’s definitely harder to get away from work.”

Abbie brought a friend home from school with her said she has big plans for this afternoon.

“We’re going to go home and do homework,” she said. “If it snows, I’m going to make a snow man.”

Staff writers Jeff Gill, Stephen Gurr and Jessica Jordan contributed to this story.

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