Road workers unsung heroes

by Wes Mayer


Local wrecker crews work to free a large truck on Interstate 85. 

There are about 930 miles of roadway in Coweta County, and every single road was covered in ice after this week’s snowstorm.

Starting Tuesday, after Coweta County was covered in approximately two to three inches of snow, Coweta and Newnan road crews began working tirelessly to spread salt and sand over the frozen roads. This weekend, with warmer temperatures and sunny skies there may be clouds of dust in the air and piles of dirty slush on the side of the road, but thanks to all the road workers, Cowetans can now drive around without sliding off the roads.

In Newnan, 28 city public works employees worked continuously from Tuesday to Wednesday evening spreading salt and sand over the roads, said Ray Norris, deputy public works director — they took Wednesday evening off, but went right back to work Thursday morning.

Working in two shifts, 50 Coweta County employees from the road, environmental management and waste management departments worked a similar schedule, said Bill Cawthorne, director of the Coweta County Road Department. County employees also took Wednesday night off, and that was when the temperatures dropped into the single digits.

Road workers in both Newnan and in the county were still spreading salt on Friday. Each night this week, temperatures dropped far below 32 degrees, refreezing many of roads already treated by the road departments.

“Usually any areas in the shade, areas well shaded by trees or anything not receiving direct sunlight — a lot of them are still frozen,” Cawthorne said Friday. “We’re still going back over the main roads that keep refreezing.”

Cawthorne said by the end of Friday, county road workers finished spreading their entire supply of salt, which is mixed with an aggregate. The department had 75 tons of salt at the beginning — mixed with 225 tons of aggregate — so county road workers spread around 300 tons of salt and sand on the county’s roads.

Coweta crews were able to use three salt spreader trucks from the road department, Cawthorne said, and with the help of Carl McKnight, director of the recreation department, three additional fertilizer trucks were made available to spread the salt and aggregate mixtures along the roads. The county also used four motor graders to scrape the snow and ice off the road and one pickup truck, which the road workers used to continuously supply the area around Piedmont Newnan Hospital with salt so ambulances could get in and out.

Norris said Newnan road workers spread nearly 250 tons of salt and sand on the city roads. The city had one main spreader truck and three motor graders, but they mostly used six dump trucks and spread a lot of the material by hand.

“We first started with the bridges around 1 p.m. Tuesday, when the snow started to stick,” Norris said. “Then we moved to the main city thoroughfares and some state highway intersections and curves the state wasn’t addressing.”

Norris said the city public works employees were also on the scene at the Jefferson Point apartment fire Thursday, salting the ground so it wouldn’t ice over and become slippery for firefighters. On Friday, city public workers spread salt and sand over the last remaining icy patches in the city, but with temperature dropping to 28 degrees Friday, there is a possibility of ice remaining today.

Cawthorne said he didn’t believe all icy patches would thaw out Friday, but everything should be clear after today.

On Thursday, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal extended the state of emergency through Sunday, according to statement from the Governor’s office.

At 9 p.m. Thursday, the Georgia State Patrol began towing vehicles left in areas posing a public safety hazard — the state will cover the cost of towing in these cases, but they will not be towing vehicles stuck in areas not posing a risk to public safety, officials said.

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