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Authorities urge caution as roads may refreeze

POSTED: February 13, 2014 6:11 p.m.
 

UPDATE (6 p.m. Thursday) — The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office and other local agencies are thanking residents who ventured out Thursday for being extra cautious as they traveled, crediting them with a day free of major traffic incidents.

"It's been very quiet," said Doug Rainwater, spokesman for the sheriff’s office. "There are still not that many people out and about, probably 20 percent of a normal Thursday.

“So just based on that number, you're not going to have that many incidents or accidents, and everyone is still being careful just in case they drive up on a slick spot."

Rainwater said some subdivisions and back roads in shaded areas still have slush that will turn to ice tonight. "So once again, people need to use caution in the morning."

The past few days have been long ones for local authorities and emergency personnel, but Rainwater credited residents for heeding warnings to stay home. That helped get Forsyth and the rest of the state in good shape for Friday.

"Most of this should be gone by lunch tomorrow," he said. "Forsyth's roads and bridges department has had a chance to put sand and salt on many different roadways because not that many cars were on them and it gave the state DOT a chance to really work on the major highways.

“By people staying home, it allowed these agencies to do what they needed to do to get the roads back in shape."

 

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UPDATE (3:30 p.m. Thursday) — After a long night of snow, the sun finally peeked out Thursday, triggering what is expected to be a long process of melting the inches of ice and snow that blanket Forsyth County roads.

The winter weather advisory ended at 1 p.m., by which time sheets of ice were turning to slush and streams of water.

According to spokesman Doug Rainwater, the sheriff’s office has ended its employees 12-hour shifts.

However, the county's roads and bridges department will continue to work half-day schedules to help clear the county's roads.

While conditions were improving, authorities advised residents to stay home for the day.

"People are still staying home and not venturing out, which is good. But you'll see as soon as they start venturing out, we'll see an increase in accidents," Rainwater said.

"We've still got so many back roads, especially in subdivisions and valleys and hills, that are covered in snow and ice. Ga. 400, Hwy. 9 and main highways are getting better by the minute."

For those who do venture out, Rainwater advises caution.

"Be careful, slow down and be aware of these side streets," he said.

Freezing temperatures likely will return Thursday night, with the melting to begin anew in the morning.

For those leaving for work early Friday, Rainwater offered some advice.

“They really need to be careful. There will be black ice, especially before the sun comes up,” he said. "If you're traveling tomorrow morning, just be aware there will still be many icy areas of Forsyth County, even though the state DOT and county trucks will still be out all night, it'll still be icy.”

The weather forecast calls for a 30 percent chance of rain Friday night, however Rainwater said the shower will actually be a good thing for the region.

"That will knock all of the snow and ice off, so really the rain is the best thing to end all the ice and snow," he said. "The rain would wash everything off, but there's only a 30 percent chance."

 

Check back for updates at forsythnews.com.

 

 

(7:15 a.m. Thursday) FORSYTH COUNTY — As the snow tapered off Thursday morning, authorities were cautioning Forsyth County residents to stay home and not rush out onto ice-slickened roads.

"The best thing to do is wait," said Doug Rainwater, spokesman for the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office. "Drive to work in the afternoon."

Officials received their last briefing of the day from the National Weather Service late Wednesday night. They expected to receive very few emergency calls overnight as most people were heeding their advice to stay off the roads.

Rainwater hoped that approach would hold true in the morning, but suspected more folks would try to return to work.

"There [is] a lot of ice, no doubt … they're not going to be any safer in the morning," he said.

"Once the sun comes out, the melting process will start taking place. Not that the roads will be perfect, but the melting process will start. But it's going to take a while to get all this ice and snow off the roadways."

Weather service forecasters are projecting that snow will end across most of Georgia by late morning, with high temperatures that could melt some of the snow and ice that's fallen.

Forecasters are calling for high temperatures of around 45 degrees in the Forsyth County area on Thursday.

However, they say that any water remaining on roads Thursday night will refreeze as temperatures fall below 32 degrees. That will create black ice during the overnight hours and into Friday morning.

Winds will still be strong, with gusts as high as 25 mph. The weather service says that as winds increase during the morning, more tree limbs and power lines could come down, causing more power outages.

According to the state Department of Transportation, perilous road conditions continue throughout northeast Georgia.

The department, whose crews are spreading salt and gravel on major well-traveled arteries, wants residents to avoid driving for now.

“Our crews are working diligently in every county focusing on interstates and four-lane state routes,” said Bayne Smith, DOT district engineer. “This allows us to keep major roads open that benefit the most emergency traffic.

“We just can’t work every route when conditions are this perilous. Our priorities have to be primary routes, the interstates and four- or five-lane state routes. Please do not multiply the hazards by driving unless it is an emergency situation.” 

The DOT continues to coordinate with all state agencies at the emergency operations center and special operations center, which will remain active throughout the winter storm. 

“We need you to stay off the roads until midafternoon Thursday,” Smith said.

Local authorities were taking a wait-and-see approach.

"It really depends on how many people get up … and try to drive to work as to how many issues we'll have on the roadways," Rainwater said.

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

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