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SNOW DAYS: Bad road conditions continue

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Photo by Kristen Ralph

COVINGTON -- Although no more snow has fallen, the second day of the mammoth winter storm that has blanketed the Southeast has brought little change in conditions.

Temperatures were struggling to make it above freezing for a few hours Tuesday and public safety officials were hoping that would improve road conditions.

"The situation really hasn't changed," said Deputy Director Jody Nolan of Newton County Emergency/Risk Management. "There may be a little thawing today (Tuesday), but temperatures are going up only for a couple of hours and then drop back down. That gives you the freeze-thaw situations and that doesn't really improve the situation at all."

Rockdale County Sheriff Jeff Wigington said Tuesday morning that icy roads were still a problem in the county.

"Some (places) are actually glazed over worse today (Tuesday) than they were yesterday," Wigington said.

There seemed to be more activity on the roads Tuesday as well, Wigington said, which exacerbated the dangerous conditions. The RCSO worked a total of 19 accidents in 24 hours as of Tuesday afternoon.

Nolan predicted there would be traces of the winter storm evident through the middle of next week.

"Towards the weekend the roadways will improve a little bit, but right now there's really no improvement in the situation because we have tons of ice out there," he said.

Newton County Sheriff's Office spokesman Lt. Mark Mitchell urged motorists to continue their vigilance.

"We're just asking people not to get complacent, let their guard down and get out on the roads and start traveling like it's business as usual," he said. "That's when accidents start happening. We're waiting for the weather to hopefully help us out in conjunction with the roads."

Mitchell said the NCSO has not worked a lot of crashes, mainly because "people have heeded the warnings."

Covington Police Department Capt. Ken Malcom said his officers worked a traffic crash Tuesday morning in which the driver hit the median wall on I-20 and left the vehicle.

"We were able to locate the driver and get the car off the road," Malcom said.

He said his patrol units are cautioning that "ice on the bridges is very thick and secondary roads are a major concern right now."

Malcom said major thoroughfares like U.S. Highway 278 and Ga. Highway 36 are passable, but there were still patches of treacherous ice.

"I can't stress enough if you do not have some type of emergency where you have to get on the road, just don't do it," he said. "There are areas of I-20 that are clear and people are traveling and getting up to speeds of 45 to 50 and they suddenly hit ice. When you reach those speeds, you're at the mercy of the ice."

Interstate 20 between Rockdale and Newton counties remains a danger to motorists, said a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Transportation. In some cases, crews are having to re-treat the same segments of roadway multiple times because they are freezing over again.

"When you treat ice, normally it starts melting, but it keeps getting colder. It's not running off, it's refreezing and some places we're having to re-treat over and over," said spokeswoman Karlene Barron on Tuesday. "There's no wind, so it's not drying. There's nothing helping us today with the weather."

Barron said lane closures and openings are happening so quickly that she couldn't give an update on specific areas that are closed or would be closed today.

Conyers Police Department Capt. Mike Waters described Interstate 20 through the city overnight Tuesday as "a parking lot of tractor trailers" as dozens of truckers were stranded from icy roads. Police worked through the night to get the traffic cleared.

There were no reports of serious accidents with injuries in the city of Conyers.

Meanwhile, local roads in Newton County also remain treacherous due to similar problems with refreezing, reported Board of Commissioners Chairman Kathy Morgan.

With temperatures remaining below freezing and more ice possible Tuesday, Morgan said more layers of ice could be added by today. Public Works may run out of sand and gravel if the stuff lingers several more days, she said. In addition to spreading sand and gravel, crews are also scraping critical intersections.

Public works had to assist a fire truck that got stuck while out on a call Monday night and had to scrape and sand the Sheriff's Office parking lot so staff could get in to work. County employees who perform critical duties are being picked up by public works crews and residents in need of getting to medical appointments are also receiving assistance, she said.

Georgia State Patrol spokesman Gordy Wright urged motorists to stay informed as they venture forth on the roadways.

"The best advice for the remainder of the week is to monitor travel condition through the media and heed the travel advisories," he said. "The DOT 511 site has current travel conditions and can provide information for specific routes. Their website is 511ga.org."

Reporters Alena Parker of the Rockdale Citizen and Crystal Tatum of the Newton Citizen contributed to this story.