Where were GDOT trucks during icy morning commute?

More than two hours after the first reports of black ice on I-20 just west of downtown Atlanta Friday morning, Georgia Department of Transportation trucks arrived on the scene to treat the icy patches.

A spokeswoman said GDOT was caught by surprise because forecasters had not predicted a risk of icing.

Mark Arum in the WSB 24-hour Traffic Center reported at 6:15 a.m. that 12 wrecks had occurred on I-20 between I-285 and the Downtown Connector.

“Very simply, I do not want you to get on I-20 in either direction,” Arum said, calling that stretch of the interstate “an icy mess.”

Arum said he got the first call about a wreck caused by ice at 5:07. The first GDOT truck arrived to begin treating the black ice at 7:29, he said.

“The National Weather Service had not indicated that there would be any icy conditions, intermittent or widespread, so we did not have crews mobilized because of that information,” GDOT spokeswoman Natalie Dale told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“We had a briefing yesterday, and they did not mention any instances where there would be the potential for ice. Our pavement sensors indicated that the temperature of the pavement did not drop below 34, so what we were seeing were some very sporadic icy patches.”

Dale said that an on-call foreman was dispatched to I-20 to assess the situation when the first calls about icing came in shortly after 5 a.m. She said that by the time the foreman arrived on scene, crews to man the salt and sand trucks had also been mobilized.

“When we go to mobilize a crew, you’re pulling them out of bed, and by the time they leave their homes, get to the district maintenance office and get the equipment and get that equipment out to the wreck scene,” it was 7:30, she said.

Dale said GDOT did take earlier measures to alert drivers to the black ice.

“As the calls came in, we made sure to activate some of our overhead signs to warn motorists there were icy conditions,” she said.

Friday morning’s icing wasn’t confined to I-20 west of Atlanta.

In Newton County, authorities shut down I-20 in both directions near Mile Marker 90 just before 6:30 a.m. after 14 cars were involved in wrecks, 8 on the eastbound side and 6 on the westbound side.

Other icing was reported by the Georgia Department of Transportation on I-85 near Clairmont Road, as well as in the Athens area and in the northwest corner of the state.

"It's primarily going to be overpasses and bridges this morning," Channel 2 meteorologist Brad Nitz said. "The rain is all over; it's just what's left from yesterday's rain."

In northwest Georgia, Chattooga County schools delayed classes for two hours Friday because of the threat of icing.

Temperatures at 8 a.m. ranged from 28 degrees in Alpharetta, 29 in Dunwoody and 30 in Dallas and Chamblee to 31 in Marietta and 32 in Peachtree City and at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

The mercury had climbed to just above freezing by 9 a.m., although Alpharetta, Dunwoody and Dallas still reported 32 degrees. By 10 a.m., the icing threat had ended as temperatures climbed into the mid- to upper 30s throughout the metro area.

Nitz said skies will be sunny Friday and Saturday, but there’s a slight chance of rain late in the day Sunday.

Weekend highs will be in the low to mid-50s, with lows in the mid- to upper 30s, Nitz said.