Winter doesn’t officially arrive until Dec. 21, but the Georgia Department of Transportation already has been out battling icy roads.
A crew worked for the first time this season last week at Ga. 53 and Ga. 9 in Dawsonville, said Teri Pope, spokeswoman for the Gainesville-based District 1.
Snow again threatened Hall County on Sunday, and the National Weather Service in Peachtree City called for up to an inch of snow in the North Georgia mountains by Sunday night.
“We have stocked back up. We are full again and have supplies here now,” said Pope. “But if we have a winter like we had (last year), we could use everything we have in stock.”
Last year, the DOT spent nearly $1.4 million on road clearing during winter storms — almost as much as the three previous years combined — in District 1, which extends north to Union, Towns and Rabun counties.
The district used 6,382 tons of stone and 2,904 tons of salt in those efforts.
Pope said District 1 has 300 employees on call for winter work, as well as 110 dump trucks with plows, 94 spreaders, 4,983 tons of salt, 2,619 tons of gravel and 43,221 pounds of calcium chloride at the ready.
“Whenever we are needed, maintenance crews are ready to respond,” said DOT District Engineer Todd McDuffie. “We’ve got our battle plan ready and will hit the streets to keep them safe ... despite the weather conditions.”
The DOT works with area law enforcement to monitor changing conditions on roadways.
“Each person already knows their job during snow and ice. We will be on the roads working, within one hour of the call.
Our drivers know their specific job duties, which route is their responsibility and their shifts,” McDuffie said.
The DOT’s first priority is the interstates. Then, it focuses on four- and five-lane state routes.
“Our last priority is two-lane state routes and, depending on the severity of the situation, (they) may not get any work from DOT crews,” Pope said.
She also passed along a few safety trips for those traveling in bad weather:
Motorists should not pass a DOT truck spreading the salt/stone mixture, as stones may get kicked up and break a car windshield. The safe distance to follow a truck is at least 100 feet.
If you come to a traffic signal that is not working, treat it as a four-way stop.
Keep an eye on black ice, which appears first on bridges.
Watch for fallen trees or power lines.
The DOT closes only two roads during winter weather — the Ga. 180 spur in Towns County and Ga. 348/Richard Russell Scenic Parkway in White and Union counties. Both are at high elevations, with Ga. 180 Spur leading to Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia.