An ice storm has knocked down trees in North Georgia, blocking roadways and knocking out power for tens of thousands while making travel conditions hazardous.
7 a.m. update: Gainesville officials report many trees and limbs down and power out in several areas of the city. City crews are responding at first light to remove trees that are not on power lines. Hall County dispatch received some 1,700 calls in a 10-hour period, officials say.
At one point, about 70 percent of Hall County residents were without power, Emergency Services Director David Kimbrell reported in a news release. Crews have worked through the night to remove trees and restore power.
Though the precipitation has ended, temperatures have fallen back below freezing, meaning standing moisture on the roadways could freeze into black ice. Motorists are advised to use caution.
Jackson EMC reported 66,775 customers without power as of 7 a.m.. over 10 counties, including more than 25,000 in Hall County and 14,000 in Jackson, plus thousands more in Gwinnett and Banks counties. Crews have been sent to repair lines and will work through the night as needed, she said. Jones added that call lines are overloaded with reports, and customers are encouraged to report outages online if possible.
Georgia Power reported some 4,600 homes without power as of 8 p.m.
Earlier story: A winter weather warning including Hall County and in effect until noon Tuesday warned of ice accumulations, as freezing rain, sleet and possibly even snow were forecasted overnight.
The Georgia Department of Transportation reported numerous trees down Monday night in Dawson and Lumpkin counties, affecting Ga. 400 as well as several state routes.
Freezing rain was hitting Monday afternoon with a forecast for it to turn to rain this evening, back to freezing rain and sleet by midnight and possibly to snow before ending Tuesday morning.
National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Leary said puddles and other water on roadways may refreeze tonight as well.
Hall County and Gainesville school systems have canceled classes for Tuesday, along with most other local school systems and colleges, including Brenau University.
The Georgia Department of Transportation and Hall and Gainesville governments will monitor road conditions overnight and address trouble spots as needed, officials said.
“We’re going to consistently be running crews (through North Georgia),” DOT spokeswoman Karlene Barron said. “The other issue we’re going to be very mindful of is the level of ice accumulation.”
Motorists need to check out weather reports before heading out in the morning and be alert for areas of black ice.
“The reports have been so fluid, and the forecasts have changed so much, but we are expecting … widespread ice,” Barron said.
Hall County has “staged equipment at strategic locations … so that crews can respond accordingly if the weather conditions worsen,” spokeswoman Katie Crumley said.
“If it is determined that the roadways are in danger of becoming hazardous, our crews will mobilize immediately to respond accordingly.”
David Dockery, Gainesville’s public works director, said the city also will be in monitoring mode, with plans to “treat known trouble spots before dawn.”
DOT crews were spreading brine, a mixture of salt and water, as a way to pre-treat Interstate 985 and Ga. 365 to the Ga. 15/U.S. 441 interchange in Habersham County on Monday, district spokeswoman Teri Pope said.
Also, they spread the substance on Ga. 400 and Interstate 85 to the South Carolina line.
Forecaster Leary said the icy weather is expected to be out of Georgia by 10 a.m. Tuesday, though cold temperatures will remain. Highs should make it into the lower 40s on Tuesday, but will plummet back into the 30s on Wednesday and back into the teens overnight Wednesday and Thursday.