Winter storm: Ice causing power outages, late starts and closings

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Monday afternoon may have been the calm before the evening and early Tuesday morning storm for metro Atlanta residents and commuters.

Motorists faced icy roadways in counties to the north and northeast of Atlanta, while ice forming on trees felled power lines in many areas. Power outages started to mount.

As of 11 p.m., more than 70,000 Georgia Power customers were without power. Crews had restored power to nearly 20,000. Work continued to clear fallen trees and do repairs.

Get the latest from Georgia Power here.

As of 10 p.m., Georgia’s electric membership cooperatives (EMCs) were reporting about 64,000 customers in north Georgia without power, up from 15,000 earlier Monday night. Outages increased as temperatures dropped and ice accumulated on trees which touched power lines. Forsyth and Cherokee were among the hard hit counties.

Temperatures were still above freezing in many areas and were expected to increase for a time at night, but then dip overnight and into the early morning Tuesday. And that could make for a driver nightmare: black ice on the roadways, bridges and overpasses.

While the lingering rain is expected to end overnight, strong winds could cause ice formation on roads before the gusts can dry them out, said Severe Weather Team 2 meteorologists Glenn Burns and Brad Nitz.

Temperatures in the morning will drop down to the mid-20s before warming to the ice-melting 40s by the afternoon.

The National Weather Service released a special statement Monday warning of a risk of black ice on roadways Tuesday morning along and north of a line from Lagrange to Athens.

“Areas of rain will push across the region through tonight, resulting in widespread wet surfaces,” the Weather Service said. “Temperatures could dip to freezing just before sunrise for many areas. This will result in patches of black ice, especially on bridges and overpasses, between 5 and 10 a.m. Tuesday.”

The less traveled roads and side streets are likely to suffer the most problems.

The Georgia Department of Transportation said that overnight 18 GDOT interstate response teams, 15 multi-agency strike teams and 10 brine trucks will begin further treatment of interstate highways in metro Atlanta and north Georgia in anticipation of widespread black ice following rain and falling temperatures.

Gov. Nathan Deal pushed back the opening of state agencies in metro Atlanta to 10 a.m. Tuesday. Agencies in counties in the northern part of the state were asked to observe an 11 a.m. opening.

Many government offices said they would open late, including Fulton County, the City of Atlanta, and the Department of Labor metro area career centers. All will open at 10 a.m

A list of delays and school closings can be found here.

On Monday, reports of accumulating sleet began coming in from the northern suburbs northward during the early afternoon as the weather system that forecasters once thought could bring widespread frozen precipitation to much of north Georgia moved across the state.

But for most of the metro area, the weather system on Monday just brought cold rain.

A winter weather advisory that was set to go into effect at 7 a.m. for metro Atlanta north of I-20 was dropped for all but the far northern counties, and a winter storm warning that had been posted to begin at 7 for 15 counties across extreme north Georgia was scaled back to include only eight counties in the northeast corner of the state.

»To track the approaching system and follow changes to the forecast, click here or check in with Severe Weather Team 2

»To check the latest road conditions, visit the WSB 24-hour Traffic Center.

The winter weather won’t be over any time soon.

Wednesday will begin with lows in the upper 20s, and highs will reach the low 40s, Channel 2 Action News said.

Another blast of Arctic air will send the mercury plummeting into the low-teens early Thursday, and the temperature is not expected to rise above the freezing mark.

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