Roadways remain hazardous
by Sarah Fay Campbell
Road conditions continued to be dangerous in Coweta County late Wednesday, and conditions are expected to be just as bad — if not worse — early today.
Any snow and slush left on the roads late Wednesday is expected to re-freeze, said Coweta officials. There will likely be patches of black ice on many roadways today. And morning conditions will “probably be more treacherous than they were” on Tuesday and Wednesday, said Associate County Administrator Eddie Whitlock.
Motorists might have a false sense of security about road conditions, Whitlock said.
Coweta County and Newnan crews worked through the night both Tuesday Wednesday.
“Road conditions are just bad, period,” Coweta Emergency Management Director Jay Jones said. Hills are particularly problematic. “If there’s any type of incline, more than likely you are going to have issues trying to get up that hill,” he said.
One driver at RaceTrac on Bullsboro Drive Wednesday morning shared his story of being stuck on I-85 all night.
James Harris of Newnan was cleaning off the back wiper of his dodge Durango after getting gas about 8:45 a.m. Wednesday. "I was at a meeting in Dunwoody and left around 5 p.m. (Tuesday) and just got off I-85," he said. "It was a long and frustrating night. I conserved fuel by turning my vehicle off and on. Nobody could get off 85 to get fuel because the off ramps were too steep. People who tried just got stuck."
Newnan driver Karen Hendricks remained positive as she struggled on Jackson Street Wednesday. Several people stopped and helped her get moving again.
Though Coweta road crews worked all day Wednesday and people were driving, Jones said the weather wasn’t expected to provide a lot of help. “We’re barely going to get above freezing temperatures,” he said. “If the sun doesn't come out more and melt something … even if it does, we’re still looking at bad conditions.”
"We’re trying to make a little headway today,” said Whitlock on Wednesday. “I don’t think we’re going to be able to make enough to make a huge difference.”
In addition to the four dump truck-mounted salt and gravel spreaders, county public works crews used motor graders — typically used to grade construction sites and road beds — to scrape snow and slush off roadways.
However, “where we’ve gotten some blading done, it’s just refreezing. People are slipping and sliding everywhere. It’s pretty bad,” Whitlock said.
In the Newnan city limits, crews had done all they could do. Now, “it’s just a matter of letting it naturally melt,” said Mayor Keith Brady Wednesday afternoon. Public works crews will report today as needed, he said.
Coweta has dealt with bad snow and ice storms in the past, of course, and the icing events of 2010 and 2011 were particularly memorable.
However, “this one ranks right up there,” Whitlock said. On Tuesday evening, “the snow got compacted and it turned into ice. We got a little bit of thaw and then it froze."
Coweta County government, the Coweta County School System, and Coweta County Superior Court have all reported they will be closed today. Grantville Mayor Jim Sells said Wednesday that Grantville city offices would be closed today and reopen at 8 a.m. Friday.
Governor Nathan Deal, who issued a state of emergency order for the state as a result of the snow, also said that state government offices would be closed again today.
Coweta County officially shut down its emergency operations center at 11 p.m. on Tuesday, said Jones. However, extra 911 dispatchers stayed overnight to help handle heavy call volumes.
Today, public works crews are planning to concentrate road work on the northern side of the county, Jones said.
“The roads are still very, very treacherous out there,” Jones said. There were a lot of problems for drivers on the north side, he said.
It’s not that the roads were necessarily the worst on the northern end of the county, Jones said, but “the population is more concentrated on the north and eastern sides. We have more roadways and more issues with vehicles on those roads versus other parts.”
Shortly before noon Wednesday, crews tried to work on Raymond Hill Road but were hindered by a box truck that had been abandoned in the snowstorm Tuesday and was blocking one lane of traffic.
Jones said there weren’t many people out around noon on Wednesday, and there weren’t many businesses open, either.
Coweta officials didn’t make the decision to officially close any roads, even though many were too dangerous to travel. Some areas were closed temporarily, though, as road crews worked to clear them.
County crews concentrated on primary county routes. “It will be awhile before any secondary roads are going to be touched,” Jones said Wednesday.
“It’s probably going to be Friday sometime, or even into the weekend, before some roads get cleaned out," Jones added.
Newnan crews worked on roads in the city limits. County crews worked county routes but stayed off state routes, saying those roadways are the responsibility of the Georgia Department of Transportation.
“We’ve reached out to DOT to see what their time frame is on treating any of our state highways,” Jones said. But county officials hadn’t received a firm commitment as of late Wednesday.
“We’re not able to treat state routes” because crews are too busy working on county roads, said Coweta Communications Director Tom Corker.
As of noon Wednesday, Interstate 85 and the on- and off-ramps were passable, Jones said. “They’re all bad, but it is passable.”
“We hope folks get off the roads and realize — it’s just dangerous to get out there," Whitlock said.