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Backed up, but running
Effects of storm still stinging
traffic
Traffic on Ga. 400 south was bumper to bumper Thursday morning as motorists attempted to return to work after this week's winter storm. - photo by Jim Dean

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More and more people are venturing out as road and weather conditions are slowly starting to improve from earlier in the week.

But what they have found when the got out, public safety officials say, are slow-moving lines of traffic and roads that remain deceptively icy in spots.

Forsyth County Sheriff's Capt. Tim House said there were some problems Wednesday with tractor trailers getting stuck at Exit 15 on Ga. 400.

"The issue we're still having is there are a lot of icy spots out on secondary roads and people are getting stranded and having quite a few automobile wrecks," House said.

He added that Thursday was the highest volume of traffic deputies had seen this week.

Perhaps that's a sign that everyday life is starting to return after a winter storm covered north Georgia in snow and ice Sunday night.

According to the National Weather Service, the high temperature today could hit 39 degrees before dropping tonight to 27 degrees.

Refreezing is expected overnight before highs climb into the high 40s over the weekend, with lows in the mid- to low 30s.

Jodi Gardner, spokeswoman for Forsyth County government, said road crews would continue working Thursday night through today.

"With the warmer temperatures expected Friday and Saturday, we're hopeful that most of the roads will clear up," Gardner said.

County government offices opened at 10 a.m. Thursday, while senior services to clients were closed and parks and recreation activities were cancelled until at least 4:30 p.m.

Local schools have been shut down all week.

Students are off Monday for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. They are expected to return to class Tuesday, at which time they will have been off for 10 days including the holiday and weekends.

Forsyth County Fire Capt. Jason Shivers said the department responded to 88 calls for help between 7 p.m. Sunday and 7 a.m. Wednesday.

Those calls included 54 medical emergencies, three structure fires, five wrecks and one rescue from a well.

"We're still having slips and falls and that kind of thing, but not incidents because of immediate weather threats," Shivers said.

The state Department of Transportation has spent nearly $1 million so far on the winter storm cleanup in Northeast Georgia alone.

The cost breakdown is $208,980 for personnel, $432,670 for equipment operation and $354,637 for materials.

Employees have spent 9,397.5 hours working on the roads, with the DOT attacking interstates first, then four-lane state routes, followed by two-lane state routes.

And crews have used 2,137 tons of salt, 4,447 tons of stone and 11,425 pounds of calcium chloride, said Teri Pope, spokeswoman for the DOT’s Gainesville-based District 1.

The dollar amounts and other totals are for Sunday through 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Statewide numbers are still being compiled. Pope said she has "no idea how long that (effort) will take."

As for road conditions, "interstates and state routes in Northeast Georgia have at least one lane open in each direction," Pope said. "We have sporadic black ice on bridges that we are treating as it develops."

She still urged drivers to remain cautious and travel at slower speeds.

"There is a slush buildup in the turn lanes and on ramps, (so motorists) need to use extra caution if you see that," Pope said. "Slow way down and use the lowest gears in your vehicle for traction."

In a reversal of normal winter weather, metro Atlanta has worse conditions than mountainous north Georgia.

"(That area) bore the brunt of this storm because they got so much ice, over 2 inches thick in some areas," Pope said.

A big issue for the DOT now is abandoned vehicles, more of a problem in the Atlanta area, and the department is calling for motorists to remove them as soon as possible.

"Effective ice removal cannot occur while vehicles remain in highway travel lanes and on shoulders," DOT spokesman David Spear said.

"As temperatures warm and ice melts today, it will become imperative to clear shoulders so runoff will drain properly and not pool in roadways to refreeze tonight."

He cited a state law that allows law enforcement to remove vehicles that are "impeding the flow of traffic."

Gardner, the Forsyth County spokeswoman, said local crews have not had issues with abandoned vehicles.


Jeff Gill of the FCN regional staff contributed to this report.