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Tuesday, January 11, 2011 - 2:25am

Icy Roads Continue to Challenge North Georgia

Emergency officials are still urging people to stay off the roads in the wake of the major winter storm that's moved through the state, bringing below freezing temperatures overnight. And most school systems that were shuttered on Monday remained closed Tuesday.

On the metro Atlanta interstates, iced-over sections with dozens of stranded tractor-trailers have made cleanup challenging. The state's Department of Transportation in coordination with the Georgia State Patrol is closing sections of I-285 from I-75 in Cobb County, moving toward the southside of Atlanta to I-20. State DOT officials say in some spots, about an inch of ice is coating the roadway.

The DOT's Jill Goldberg says things are better in relative terms on major roadways north of the Atlanta metro, extending into the mountain region:

"In general there is at least one lane open and clear up there...some of them have the entire lanes of the interstate open, so it's definitely passable in that area."

But Goldberg does warn drivers in general to stay off the roads if at all possible.

The storm has essentially shut-down the metro Atlanta region -- with school closings, only handfuls of businesses open, and most people staying home from work for a second day.

City of Atlanta spokesperson Sonji Jacobs-Dade says residents have generally heeded warnings of officials to stay off the roads:

“The police department has reported a really low number of accidents. We haven’t seen the kind of fatalities that often happen in these kind of ice events.”

City officials say it’s a challenge to clear streets quickly, with only about two dozen plows and sand trucks to work with. But Jacobs-Dade says Atlanta is contracting for more equipment.

She says about 60-percent of the city's priority 1 and 2 roads (to hospitals, police/fire stations, etc.) are cleared.

Around the state, Sylvia McGee with the Bibb County School system in Macon says even though the storm is over the residual effects continue.

“Road conditions that are hazardous, our students having to get up very early and the amount of traffic that with the schools opening we would have on the roads so it’s really precautionary measures for our students safety that we’re not having school.”

McGee says they hope to reopen on Wednesday if road conditions improve. But some parts of the state could take longer to thaw than others.

The National Weather Service says it will be a struggle for much of north Georgia to get above freezing for high temperatures today, thus making thawing of roads tougher. Forecasters say there will still be periods of freezing rain falling in north Georgia in the afternoon.

Governor Nathan Deal has issued an executive order giving department heads the authority to shut down state offices if necessary.Freezing temperatures are expected to persist in North Georgia for several days.

While Central Georgia got mostly sleet and ice some places in Georgia got as much as 8 inches of snow.


Josephine Bennett