A car drives on a wet road in Kennesaw that is partially covered in ice and snow on Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017. Parts of Cobb County saw up to a foot of snow from the storm that moved into the area on Friday and continued into Saturday. Commuters face the risk of black ice on roadways Monday morning. BRANDEN CAMP / SPECIAL TO THE AJC
Photo: Branden Camp
Photo: Branden Camp

Icy roads still pose a threat for Monday commute

The storm that coated metro Atlanta in layers of snow and ice was long gone by Sunday, but forecasters warned plunging temperatures could complicate road conditions across parts of metro Atlanta and North Georgia on Monday as residents prepared to return to work and school.

With temperatures set to drop below freezing overnight before warming up to the low 50s later in the day, forecasters warned that melting snow was at risk of posing another hazard to drivers during the morning commute.

“That means any locations that saw a lot of thawing on Sunday afternoon have the potential to refreeze,” said Channel 2 Action News meteorologist Katie Walls. “So, yet again, watch for patchy black ice on your Monday morning commute.”

Several metro Atlanta schools took a better-safe-than-sorry approach, announcing Sunday afternoon that their doors would be shut on Monday. That includes school districts in Carroll, Cherokee, Cobb, Douglas and Paulding counties, where power outages and closed roads factored into the decision to cancel classes.

Utility crews scrambled to return power to people who lost service during the Friday deluge, which dumped as much as a foot of snow across parts of the region. Tens of thousands of customers remained without power late Sunday, though the number narrowed by the hour.

Road workers fanned out to clean up debris and target patches of dangerous black ice that reformed overnight as temperatures plunged below freezing. In Cobb County, where nearly 200 felled trees blocked roadways, officials prepared for what could be a lengthy cleanup process.

“We hope to have the majority of trees cleaned up by mid-afternoon,” said Bill Shelton, manager of the county’s road maintenance unit. “We’ll spend much of the week picking up the debris off the right-of-way. It will be a long week, but we are up to the task.”

And some motorists resorted to mass transit rather than risk tangling with a patch of black ice, after Gov. Nathan Deal and other officials warned them to stay home on Saturday. Marcus Todd said he was “taking no chances” on his route home late Saturday.

“I really don’t ride the bus, but tonight it is one of those nights that I had to get on the bus,” he said. “The ice and my car - I didn’t want to get in an accident out here.”

By Sunday, though, parts of metro Atlanta had returned to a semblance of normal. In north Atlanta, malls were packed with shoppers and many streets that were empty Saturday were alive Sunday with traffic.

Still, dozens of churches called off services on Sunday because of the messy road conditions. And officials at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport raced to resume regular operations after hundreds of flights were canceled on Friday and Saturday because of the snow.

Other cancellations seemed worthy of a punchline.

Author Renee Regent scrapped an appearance in Woodstock for her book about snow because of, well, the snow. Six Flags Over Georgia canned a 1,000-person snowball fight with fake snowballs planned for Saturday for the same reason. Stone Mountain’s “Snow Mountain” attraction met the same ironic fate.

The pre-winter storm blanketed the region with more snow than many longtime residents had experienced in decades. In the span of one day, Channel 2’s Walls said, Atlanta received about 80 percent of its annual snowfall projections.

Parents dusted off lightly used snow boots and winter jackets, kids carted out sleds and built landscapes of makeshift snowmen that by Sunday had begun to melt into slushy blobs.

The wintry weather also appeared to contribute to at least two fatalities. A fallen power line electrocuted a man in Atlanta late Friday who witnesses said ignored warnings to steer clear of the live wire. And police say a fatal crash in Carroll County was weather-related.

Georgia Department of Transportation crews working 12-hour shifts treated patches of ice across the area Sunday and dispatched teams to monitor the roads and look for other spots that could become hazardous. GDOT planned to treat all areas where moisture could pose a threat as roads refreeze.

Officials warned motorists who encounter black ice on the roads to heed three tips: Hold the steering wheel straight, don’t pump the brakes and let off the gas to let the car decelerate.

“Everybody should be prepared for a normal – albeit cautious – commute on Monday morning,” said GDOT spokeswoman Natalie Dale.

Staff writers Vanessa McCray, Marlon A. Walker and David Wickert and Channel 2 Action News reporter Lauren Pozen contributed to this article.

Staff writers Vanessa McCray, Marlon A. Walker and David Wickert and Channel 2 Action News reporter Lauren Pozen contributed to this report.