Winter’s first serious bout of bad weather — a mixture of rain, sleet and frozen precipitation — could hit the area Friday, spawning potential traffic problems and power outages.
On Wednesday, the National Weather Service in Peachtree City warned of a possible ice storm with up to one-quarter inch of accumulation as a system moves into the area late tonight and early Friday.
The icy punch is part of a cold front moving through the Southeast.
“Cold air at the surface, especially wedged along the North Georgia mountains, will result in precipitation falling as freezing rain and sleet,” according to a weather agency statement.
“Ice and possible sleet will cause roadways and sidewalks to become slippery, making travel dangerous especially on bridges and overpasses. Ice may also accumulate on power lines, possibly leading to power outages.”
All this is expected to happen nearly one week after a weather system that threatened more than it produced in terms of snow and ice pushed through North Georgia.
But like last week, the Georgia Department of Transportation is keeping a close eye on conditions.
“We are ready if needed to battle winter weather but hope we aren’t needed,” said Teri Pope, DOT spokeswoman in District 1, which covers Northeast Georgia, including Hall.
“At least one dump truck in each county stays ready for winter weather during the season,” she added. “(They) are filled with gas and sitting ready. Depending on work load in a county, more than one truck may be ready.”
On Wednesday, DOT crews were working “to clean out drains and remove or trim dead vegetation in rights of way to prevent it from falling into the roadway if ice builds up,” Pope said.
She and others monitoring the weather agree that ice is more of a problem than snow.
“Ice is much harder to remove and it grows quickly,” Pope said. “Our asphalt is porous to allow rain/water to drain from the driving surface of the road quickly.
“This helps us most of the year but when it is winter, the ice starts in those crevices and builds up to the driving surface. We can scrape the ice off the driving surface but can’t get down to the original ice in the crevices of the asphalt so it regrows very quickly.”
If bad weather strikes, the DOT’s plan is “to focus on interstates first, keeping the outside two lanes open for use, and then multilane high-traffic state routes,” such as Ga. 365 and Ga. 400, Pope said.
“Two-lane state routes are the lowest priority (and) depending on the severity of the winter weather, may not get any attention from GDOT,” she added.
Bonnie Jones, spokeswoman for Jackson Electric Membership Corp., and John Kraft, Georgia Power spokesman, both said their respective utilities were watching weather reports carefully.
Even a thin layer of ice on the road can cause issues, Jones said.
“The biggest hazard will be drivers skidding into power poles and pad-mounted transformers, followed by weakened trees and dead tree limbs that could come down with even a small accumulation of ice,” she said.
“We ask the public to consider any downed power lines as live lines, whether they look that way or not, and call ... to report them.”
Kraft said, “At this point, we’re in an observation mode. We do have crews that were (out of state) back at various locations around the state, so we’re watching to see how the forecast changes and will be prepared to respond as needed.”