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Roads clear, but icy spots remain
Hundreds wrecked after winter weather hit area overnight Wednesday
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A three-car wreck on Union Church Road Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, forced Hall County deputies to block traffic until busy towing services could be called to move the vehicles. - photo by Scott Rogers

UPDATE, 6 a.m.: The Hall County Sheriff’s Office reports that major roads are clear and passable. However, there are still icy spots, especially on second streets, so drivers should use plenty of caution.

Previous story:

Major roads throughout Hall County and Gainesville have been treated for ice by public works crews, but emergency officials are still warning residents against unnecessary travel.

The area woke up to ice-covered roads on Wednesday, but with sanding and sunlight throughout the day many busy roads dried out before evening.

However, with lows well below freezing expected overnight, any standing water in the area will freeze and black ice is likely to form — especially on shaded roads and lightly traveled residential streets that weren’t treated Wednesday.

“Extremely hazardous driving conditions” are still expected Wednesday night, according to the National Weather Service.

Hall County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Stephen Wilbanks said as of 5:30 p.m. the county dispatch had received just less than 200 wreck calls, which includes calls in Gainesville.

Vehicles were being abandoned on roads as drivers became stuck and couldn’t free their vehicles, completely blocking some roads.

Gainesville Police Department Sgt. Kevin Holbrook said his department had handled “a great deal of crashes and disabled vehicles” Wednesday and will be “playing catch-up for the next couple of days.”

Be prepared for more trouble tonight as temperatures dip well below 32 degrees.

“It doesn’t get above freezing until about noon tomorrow,” said Casey Ramsey, interim director of Hall County emergency management. “We’re going to try to treat what we can and get it cleared up, but … I wouldn’t rule out some things overnight as well.”

Ramsey said residents shouldn’t drive “unless absolutely necessary.”

“Right now we are making steady progress on primary roads but secondary roads and any primary road that has shade is still a trouble area. Road crews will be working throughout the night to treat and clear as many roads as possible,” Ramsey said Wednesday afternoon. “... There is still a lot of work to be done.”

Throughout the day, road maintenance workers were slowed by abandoned vehicles in or along roads.

“We just can’t get around them until they get moved,” Ramsey said. “It just slows progress. It’s been happening since about 4 or 5 o’clock this morning.”

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A motorist’s vehicle was left along Chestatee Road Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, when road conditions worsened due to overnight snowfall. - photo by Scott Rogers

Old Winder Highway/Ga. 211 was closed to through traffic from Winder Highway/Ga. 53 because of about 20 abandoned vehicles piled along the section of road, according to Hall County government.

Many of the vehicles were cleared during the day and the road was reopened after several hours, according to the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Gainesville public works crews have also treated major roads in the city, but shady residential streets and smaller roads likely still have ice covering them. An announcement from the city of Gainesville said the “potential of black ice forming is high” as temperatures drop again in the evening. Public works employees are working a 24-hour schedule through Thursday morning.

Fortunately, no more snow is expected before temperatures rise above freezing Thursday.

GDOT crews, which pretreated area roads on Tuesday, were back on state routes Wednesday plowing them and putting down ice-melting salt and gravel.

Motorists should still stay away from roads, if possible, district spokeswoman Katie Strickland said.

“The ice is frozen to the road in a sheet, so you can't drive on it (and) you can't stop on it,” she said. “If temps remain low, this ice will stay.”

By Wednesday mid-afternoon, all state routes in Northeast Georgia were “passable,” except for the Richard B. Russell Scenic Highway/Ga. 348 and Ga. 180 between Helen and Blairsville, Strickland said.

However, crews working in shifts “will continue plowing and applying salt and gravel where needed,” she added.

State government offices will remain closed Thursday in the 83 counties included in a Tuesday emergency declaration.

“Due to yesterday’s winter weather and continued freezing temperatures, ice continues accumulating on our roadways,” Gov. Nathan Deal said in an announcement Wednesday morning. “GDOT is responsible for the maintenance of more than 17,900 miles of state roads and interstates. Currently, there are more than 12,800 miles remaining to be cleared and treated.”

Residents can report icy roadways and other nonemergency issues by calling Hall County Dispatch at 770-536-8812.

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