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Slips and slides on a day of icy roads
With continuing low temperatures, driving conditions may remain treacherous
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A Hall County gravel truck travels Sardis Road on Friday morning looking for icy patches as the heavily traveled road was slick with ice early in the day.

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National Weather Service forecast  

Today: Partly sunny, with a high near 29. Northwest wind around 10 mph, with gusts as high as 15 mph.

Tonight: Mostly cloudy, with a low around 17. Northwest wind around 10 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph.

Sunday: Sunny, with a high near 32. Northwest wind around 10 mph, with gusts as high as 15 mph.

Sunday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 20.

Monday: Sunny, with a high near 40. 

When winter weather hits Hall County, the calls for tow trucks pick up, and Friday was no exception.

At Don Kerns Wrecker Service, drivers responded to 25 calls between 6 a.m. and 2 p.m., more than double a normal day. Most were for motorists whose cars slid out of control on Hall’s icy roads and ended up in ditches, office manager Kathy Martin said.

“You can’t drive on ice — they just don’t realize that,” Martin said. “And you can’t see it when it’s black ice.”

While state, city and county workers were busy laying down salt and gravel on a snow-coated, subfreezing day, public safety officials responded to dozens of wrecks. Most were minor and no one was seriously injured, officials said.

“We had high call volume, but nothing too bad, thank goodness” said Hall County 911 Director Marty Nix, who estimated calls peaked mid-morning Friday and were about 20 percent above normal for the day. Between 6:45 a.m. Thursday and 6:45 a.m. Friday, operators took 348 calls, a 38 percent increase over average call volume for that period.

Hall County Sheriff’s deputies worked 55 wrecks between 6 a.m. and 2 p.m., Col. Jeff Strickland said. Areas of North Hall including Chestatee, Ledan Road and Old Cornelia Highway were especially problematic. While most calls for help slowed by midday, deputies were out on wrecks as late as 4:30 p.m., when a propane truck slid off a road near Lakeland Road, Strickland said.

Gainesville Police Sgt. Dale Cash said most problems inside the city were in neighborhoods with shady areas or steep hills.

Gainesville’s Assistant Public Works Director, Chris Rotalsky, said workers continuously monitored street conditions and laid down salt as needed.

“There are a lot of areas that continue to be slick,” Rotalsky said late Friday.

Hall County Public Works Manager Kem Smith said no county roads were closed as of late Friday.

Smith said workers, who work on a priority list, had not yet been able to get to some subdivision roads to lay down salt and gravel.

“Use caution and bear with us,” Smith said.

Georgia Department of Transportation spokesperson Teri Pope said Interstates 85 and 985 north of Gwinnett County were completely dry. But roads closer to metro Atlanta, which got more precipitation, “are not faring as well,” she said.

“If you need to got to Atlanta, please don’t,” Pope said. “Metro Atlanta definitely got hit harder than North Georgia.”

Roads in Dawson and Forsyth Counties also were worse off than Hall, Pope said. About half of the 50 people working the DOT’s North Georgia snow and ice details were concentrating on those counties Friday, she said.

While sunny skies and wind helped dry up many areas Friday, “we’re concerned about shady spots,” Pope said. “Any moisture on the roadway is going to freeze and cause a problem.”

It was the first time in four years the DOT had to employ a third consecutive 12-hour shift to lay down salt and stone in the 21-county North Georgia district, Pope said.

Hall County Emergency Management Director David Kimbrell said by late Friday, a “big percentage” of roads were dry, but secondary roads and shady areas would continue to pose the biggest risks.

By late Friday, with temperatures to dip back into the teens overnight, authorities urged caution.

“I think what you’ve got right now is what you’re going to have in the morning,” Kimbrell said late Friday afternoon. “I would say there’s still going to be quite a few slick spots.”

“It will be dangerous again in the morning,” Strickland said. “We urge motorists that if they do get out, to be very cautious.”
Some folks were apparently listening to the advisories to avoid driving, with traffic volume down Friday, Pope said.

“We want to thank people for staying home today,” said Pope. “They do seem to be heeding the warnings, and that saves lives. No one can drive on ice, period.”

Staff writers Ashley Fielding and Melissa Weinman contributed to this report.

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