Weather forecasts for areas of north Georgia are calling for rain and snow, and possibly black ice accumulations on roadways as far south as Columbus beginning Thursday afternoon through Friday morning.
Due to the expected inclement weather, the Georgia Department of Transportation urges motorists to plan ahead before traveling during this timeframe and check weather and road conditions before heading out.
“We are continuously monitoring current weather conditions and forecasts as snow flurries and high winds are predicted for north Georgia," said Keith Golden, Georgia DOT Commissioner. "Weather forecasts indicate snow, black ice, fallen trees and damaged traffic signals are possible from Thursday evening through Friday morning."
Motorists should also be especially aware of potential hazardous situations:
- Bridges, as black ice forms there first and can reform quickly;
- Highest elevations in North Central and Northeast Georgia;
- Fallen trees, with root systems weakened by drought and saturated by recent heavy rains, the potential exists for strong winds to cause trees to fall onto or adjacent to roadways;
- Traffic signals not operating because of power outages; and
- High profile vehicles, as they can be difficult to control in high winds.
“Winds gusts up to 15 miles per hour are possible and weather reports call for slight accumulations of snow in the higher elevations of the Mountains," said Georgia DOT Operations Director Meg Pirkle.
"We encourage all motorists to stay off the roadways if possible," he added. "If you must be on the roads, please slow down, engage the lower gear of your vehicle for additional traction and use extreme caution particularly as you approach bridges. If you approach a traffic signal that is dark with no color lit then treat the intersection as a four way stop by waiting your turn to move. If the signal flashes yellow then cautiously proceed through the intersection. If the signal flashes red then stop and wait for a safe time, clear of crossing traffic, to proceed."
According to a press release, 11 new strategic staging areas housing salt and stone are located along Georgia’s interstates and will allow more focus and a more continual response on keeping two lanes interstates open for use.
A brine maker will use tap water and salt to create liquid salt that will be spread with the solid form of salt.
“This is the first winter we have had the capability to make liquid salt," said Pirkle. "This season will be a pilot project using the liquid salt with solid salt and stone to test its effectiveness. We believe it will start the chemical process more quickly, speeding up the melting process on our roads and bridges."
GDOT reports it has 1,560 employees across Middle and North Georgia available if needed. The agency will monitor conditions and respond as needed. The action plan will be revised as needed based on information from local law enforcement and the National Weather Service.
Georgia 511 is a free phone service that provides real-time traffic and travel information statewide, such as traffic conditions, incidents, lane closures, and delays due to inclement weather.
Callers also can transfer to operators to request assistance or report incidents 24 hours a day, seven days a week. More information is available at www.511ga.org.