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The slow thaw begins
Patchy ice continues to plague drivers as more take to the roads
Traffic along most main arteries in Gainesville, such as this section of Jesse Jewell Parkway, began to return to normal as the roads were cleared of ice and snow. - photo by Tom Reed

Whilte the precipitation is long gone, work continued Wednesday to dig out of the area's worst winter storm in years.

"It's amazing how crippling this can be," Gainesville spokeswoman Catiel Felts said.

Temperatures rose above freezing Tuesday but under cloudy skies. The sun shone brightly at times on Wednesday, but the mercury stayed below freezing, and a brisk wind made conditions even more bone-chilling.

Today won't be much better, as the temperatures are forecast to stay below freezing, although not as cold.

Road crews have cleared main thoroughfares, or at least provided one traveling lane. Many secondary and subdivision streets remain an icy mess, however, making travel - even walking steadily - difficult to dangerous.

South Hall is especially treacherous because that area received more ice than snow during the storm.

"Many of our neighborhood streets haven't been treated," Felts said. "We're asking for everybody's patience."

She said the city is experiencing equipment failures from constant snow and ice removal since the storm hit overnight Sunday.

Teri Pope, spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Transportation's Gainesville-based District 1, said DOT crews have had similar issues, as well, including damage from sliding off slippery roads and dodging abandoned cars.

"We've worked around the clock since 7 p.m. Sunday," she said. "Conditions are better now and we hope they will continue to improve in Northeast Georgia. ... We've worked diligently in extremely dangerous conditions."

She added that Northeast Georgia "is still doing better than metro (Atlanta), which is still having problems with interstates." She advised residents, however, to check the DOT's for road conditions before heading out today.

Early Wednesday, icy road conditions caused delays and treacherous travel on several Gainesville roads.

Thompson Bridge Road was backed up from Linwood Drive near Lakewood Baptist Church through the bridge, where several cars and trucks were having trouble getting up hills, said Col. Jeff Strickland, spokesman for the Hall County Sheriff's Office.

Officers restricted travel near the bridge to one lane and Strickland advised drivers to not try to pass cars, as the second lane was heavily iced-over.

About 30 cars were stuck on Old Winder Highway near Chateau Elan Winery, and Strickland said the department was waiting on Department of Transportation trucks to help clear roadways there.

Also, a few trucks had trouble Wednesday making it up hills on Candler Road, he said.

"We're advising people, don't get a false sense of security as they're traveling on a dry road, because they turn icy very quickly," he said.

Area school systems are closed today for the fourth straight day, but government offices and other operations, such as medical clinics, opened on delayed schedules Wednesday.

Post offices should be open and mail will be delivered to more areas today.

"We expect to see operations return to near normal," Atlanta District Manager Kate F. Wiley said. "Icy road conditions made it difficult to transport mail to and from postal facilities and prevented many employees from reporting to work earlier in the week."

Air service to Gainesville has been suspended since the storm began and likely will resume when weather conditions permit.

Chris Rotalsky, assistant public works director at Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport, said it's better for normal weather to improve conditions rather than treat runways with salt or scrape them.

"Sun and wind are fantastic for drying up pavement," Rotalsky said.

For some families, the weather has been like an extended holiday, with parents and children unable to go to work and school playing in the snow and sledding down hills.

But the fun and novelty started wearing off for some on Wednesday.

Nelson Haller, who lives in Lake Lanier Club apartments off Dawsonville Highway, said residents have been struggling to get in and out of the gated complex, thanks to a steep hill.

Some 15 to 20 vehicles have been stranded at the two entrances to the complex.

"A fire truck never could have gotten in here, unless it had chains," Haller said.

Phyllis Beard said her grandchildren, Hannah and Amanda, took Andy, their 4-month-old Great Dane puppy, out "for his first snow adventure.

"He loved the sled," she said. "Although the first day was fun, we are now suffering from cabin fever."

Looking ahead at the forecast, the National Weather Service in Peachtree City is calling for sunny skies to remain through Saturday, with the high temperature rising to 42 on Friday and 49 on Saturday.

Temperatures should hover in the upper 40s to about 50 through Tuesday.

Staff writer Tricia L. Nadolny contributed to this report.


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