State and local officials are hoping better pre-planning — not to mention better timing on the part of Mother Nature — will prevent a repeat of the gridlock caused by a few inches of snowfall two weeks ago.
Schools and government offices across most of metro Atlanta have opted to close Tuesday and Wednesday, which will help keep many drivers at home. That should allow workers to salt and sand roads they couldn’t get to when traffic suddenly came to a standstill during the last storm.
The worst conditions — either freezing rain or sleet — are pegged to occur beginning very early Wednesday throughout the day into Thursday.
Two weeks ago, Georgia Department of Transportation workers, who are responsible for keeping traffic flowing on interstates and state routes, used a brine solution to help prevent interstate overpasses from icing. But when a storm is preceded by rain, the rain washes the solution away. So this time, workers may have to forgo brine and instead watch and wait to see when is the best time to start spreading sand and gravel, said GDOT spokeswoman Natalie Dale.
“If ice accumulation is significant, we will not be treating every lane of the interstate,” Gov. Nathan Deal said at a news conference Monday afternoon. “The goal will be to keep two lanes open and operational, and then we will go the heaviest used off-interstate roadways to deal with them as well.”
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GDOT sent contractors to South Carolina to obtain 1,400 tons of salt Monday. Their supplies are now fully stocked, according to Dale. Thirty-six snow plows and 153 employees have been brought up from South Georgia to assist in spreading it.
State officials are also trying to ward off another major contributor to January’s snowjam: jackknifed tractor-trailers. Officers with the Georgia Department of Public Safety began warning truck drivers Monday of the approaching storm at inspection stations and advising them to plan alternate routes around metro Atlanta in case conditions worsen.
Tuesday’s Xpress bus service has been canceled. Patrons are advised to check www.xpressga.com for information about Wednesday and Thursday service.
MARTA plans to keep its regular schedule Tuesday for buses, trains and mobility vehicles. Riders can check www.itsmarta.com for updates.
PLANS OF ACTION
County and city governments reached Monday said they would prioritize the treatment of major bridges and arterial roads first, along with roads leading to hospitals, fire stations and police precincts.
By midday Monday, the city had at least 3,000 tons of salt on hand and had — through agreements with private contractors — doubled its fleet of equipment to 65 spreaders and 60 snow plows. Road crews will work 12-hour shifts, around the clock throughout the storm, Mayor Kasim Reed said Monday at a press conference with the governor.
Clayton’s emergency management leaders expect a lot of freezing rain and sleet that will lead to ice on tree limbs and power lines, said Jacque Feilke, deputy chief of Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services.
They’re adding fire units equipped with chain saws to clear away debris from possible downed power lines and tree limbs. That should free-up other units to focus on medical emergencies, Feilke said.
The county has enough salt to handle roads and other thoroughfares, which will be pre-treated starting Tuesday evening.
Cobb County officials fear ice may bring downed power lines, tree limbs and loss of electricity. Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee said crews will be ready to clear debris from roadways and police may use barricades to block impassable roads. The county has nine trucks that will use a combination of salt, sand and gravel on roadways. A few trucks also can plow snow.
Cobb’s road division will use more than 100 people from four departments, deployed in two 12-hour shifts.
The county has restocked salt, sand and gravel since the last storm, and personnel will treat the 2,400 miles of county-maintained roads during the storm.
DeKalb planned to begin pre-treating roads with a mix of sand and salt just after rush hour Monday.
The county has about a two-and-a-half-day supply of sand and salt, with more supplies scheduled to arrive this week.
Eight county dump trucks equipped with plows and spreaders will help clear roadways, with another 30 trucks available as needed, county spokesman Burke Brennan said.
Fulton County workers will begin treating roads in unincorporated south Fulton early Tuesday. Commission Chairman John Eaves said the county doesn’t want to begin treating too early because forecasts call for rain initially, which could wash away the sand and salt.
Fulton has five sand spreaders, one motor grader and one front-end loader available, plus 37 employees on standby.
Roads classified as a priority in each zone are monitored and receive maintenance to keep them passable. This includes approximately 111 miles of roadway and 48 bridges, according to David Ricks, director of Fulton County Facilities & Transportation Services.
Gwinnett County officials say they have enough personnel, equipment and materials on hand to handle the winter freeze.
Officials expect to activate the emergency operations center this morning, depending on the updated weather forecast.
The county has approximately 50 road maintenance workers and additional employees to clear trees and fix signals, plus 18 spreader gates, six plows, and salt/sand mixture stockpiled at five locations.