Roads not expected to improve

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Photo by Kristen Ralph

COVINGTON -- Newton County public safety officials are cautiously optimistic regarding the impact of the winter storm locally, but are expecting the state of emergency to last through today.

"Tonight is going to be potentially worse," said Deputy Director Jody Nolan of Covington/Newton County Emergency Risk Management. "The temperatures are not supposed to get above freezing for the next couple of days."

Nolan cautioned that if someone navigates a road on Monday that has slush on it, it may be worse Tuesday.

"When it refreezes, it causes more of a hazard than the snow," he said.

Nolan said calls for service began coming in about 8:45 Sunday night to 911, but most of those were coming from deputies reporting hazards.

"Around midnight, calls just kind of quit," Nolan said. "Everybody heeded the warning to stay off the roadways. (Newton County) Public Works has been on call and hasn't responded to a whole lot of complaints. All across the entire county, I think people realized there's going to be ice everywhere."

Lt. Mark Mitchell of the Newton County Sheriff's Office agreed that the public has aided emergency personnel by staying at home and off the roadways.

"We really haven't had that many accidents. We've, indeed, been very lucky and we're hoping it stays that way," he said Monday morning, adding that the NCSO doesn't expect the situation to improve through Tuesday. "People should continue heeding the state of emergency and stay off the roadways. If they have an emergency, they should call 911. We'll get to them as soon as we can. It's slow going, but we're getting through."

Capt. Ken Malcom with the Covington Police Department said his men haven't been called to a lot of accidents, either.

"We did have a couple of traffic accidents (Sunday) night. We had one overturned vehicle and one went down in the creek at (U.S. Highway) 278 near Alcovy Road, but there were no serious injuries," he said.

Malcom said there have been no official road closings, but he said some, especially secondary roads, were extremely hazardous and not expected to get better soon.

"Secondary roads and streets are very, very difficult to manage," he said. "There's no indication we're going to get any kind of relief in the next 24 hours or so. It's turned to freezing rain now (Monday morning) and we just don't know how bad it's going to get."

Malcom said Interstate 20 was flowing at mid-day Monday, thanks to the Georgia Department of Transportation keeping the far right lane sanded.

"They've concentrated on that lane. The only traffic I've observed is in that far right lane," he said.

There is a limited number of businesses open in town and Malcom said the CPD is providing meals for officers at headquarters.

Malcom said he was grateful that citizens for the most part seemed to be heeding warnings to stay inside and off the roads.

The GA DOT offers the following tips for those who do venture out, but again, warn that the best and safest plan is to say inside.

Motorists are urged to:

* Slow down and stay behind the snowplows. The road behind the plow will be the safest place to drive. Allow at least 10 car lengths between your vehicle and snowplows or hopper spreaders.

* Do not pass. The plows are wide, and sometimes a group of trucks will work in tandem to clear snow quickly, especially on major highways.

* Be particularly aware of black ice conditions on surfaces such as bridge decks and entrance and exit ramps late tonight and the early hours of tomorrow morning.

* Remember that technology helps, but only to a point. Four-wheel drive, anti-lock brakes and traction control are beneficial advancements in today's cars, trucks and SUVs, but they can't take the place of good driving habits and the need to reduce speed on snowy or icy roads.

* Call 511 or visit www.georgia-navigator.com to get current information on road conditions. Georgia 511 is a free phone service that provides real-time traffic and travel information statewide, such as traffic conditions, incidents, lane closures, and delays due to inclement weather. Callers also can transfer to operators to request assistance or report incidents 24 hours a day, seven days a week. More information is available at www.511ga.org