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Winter storm downgraded; black ice possible on roads
ALANA1
A view of the morning snowfall covering trees in White County. - photo by ALANA SWAIN

A winter storm that dropped a slushy mix Wednesday on North Georgia was downgraded overnight, though light snow and black ice may still cover some roadways, making travel dangerous early in the day.

The National Weather Service canceled the winter storm warning that had forecast 3-5 inches by this morning in Gainesville.

A winter weather advisory remains in effect through 10 a.m. today, with temperatures hovering at or below freezing. Temperatures were expected rise into the 40s by midday.

Hall County maintenance crews continue to monitor roads and bridges this morning.

"We urge all Hall County staff and citizens to exercise caution and care on roadways and in potentially hazardous areas," Assistant County Administrator Marty Nix said in a news release this morning.

Primary and secondary streets in Gainesville were scraped overnight and are in good condition this morning, according to Gainesville Public Works Director David Dockery. Neighborhood streets are slushy, and city officials are encouraging drivers to proceed with caution.

A press time Wednesday evening, Karlene Barron, Georgia Department of Transportation spokeswoman, said crews planned to work 12-hour shifts as needed overnight to plow snow and ice from roads, with interstates and state routes getting first priority.

Before the first flake, workers spread brine, a mixture of salt and water, on roadways up to the South Carolina line. The pretreatment substance is designed to help prevent quick icing of roads.

In the DOT’s Gainesville-based District 1, which covers Northeast Georgia, a single shift involves 144 employees and 103 pieces of equipment, Barron said.

If heavy clearing is needed, the district is in good shape as far as salt supply, she added.

"Roads are beginning to worsen. We are just now beginning to see accidents," Gainesville Police Department spokesman Cpl. Kevin Holbrook said around 6 p.m.

Catiel Felts, Gainesville city government spokeswoman, said, “Based on what happens (Wednesday night), we will begin clearing sidewalks in the morning.”

Public safety officials said they would monitor the storm’s impact from the Resource Operation Center, which acts as a kind of “war room” to coordinate storm response between local agencies.

Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency Wednesday, and said he was very confident in the state's preparations. Following a January 2014 ice storm that crippled metro Atlanta, Deal convened a task force to make recommendations of how to better prepare. He said Wednesday that state agencies have ably handled three weather situations in the last 10 days.

"I believe the lesson we are learning even of (Wednesday) morning as we noted the smaller volume of traffic on the interstates is that the public is willing to be a participating partner," he said.

Georgia lawmakers worked a shortened schedule Wednesday at the Capitol in Atlanta. House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, urged long-winded members to "disincline yourself" ahead of the winter storm.

"The key word is going to be 'with dispatch,'" Ralston said, referring to legislators speaking quickly and effectively.

Times reporters Jeff Gill and Nick Watson and Associated Press reports contributed to this story.

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