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Ice causes 'treacherous' road conditions, brings down trees and power lines

The Covington Fire Department responded to this home on Durden Circle near Geiger Street around 8:15 p.m. Tuesday when a fire started in the chimney. According to Deputy Fire Chief Tony Smith, the blaze was extinguished about 45 minutes later and the homeowner received no injuries. However, the house is likely a total loss, Smith said. Throughout the night and morning Wednesday, emergency crews were busy assisting citizens and motorists who were stranded due to ice. (Special photo)

The Covington Fire Department responded to this home on Durden Circle near Geiger Street around 8:15 p.m. Tuesday when a fire started in the chimney. According to Deputy Fire Chief Tony Smith, the blaze was extinguished about 45 minutes later and the homeowner received no injuries. However, the house is likely a total loss, Smith said. Throughout the night and morning Wednesday, emergency crews were busy assisting citizens and motorists who were stranded due to ice. (Special photo)

COVINGTON — Few weather-related problems were reported overnight Tuesday, but by 7 a.m. Wednesday, conditions on the roadways were described as “treacherous.”

Dan Morgan, director of Rockdale County’s Emergency Management Agency, said one or two minor accidents occurred in Rockdale County Tuesday night, but by 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, the roads had become slick and trees and power lines were reportedly down in several areas. The Conyers Police Department closed the Parker Road bridge just after 6 Wednesday morning.

Morgan said the sleet and freezing rain that began Tuesday night are expected to bring 1Ž2 inch or more ice to trees and power lines.

“The roads seem to be slicker in the south part of the county and we have more trees down in the northern part,” Morgan said. “It is really widespread, and we expect this activity to continue for at least the next 24 hours. … Traveling will be treacherous until Thursday afternoon or Friday morning.”

Newton County officials are strongly urging citizens to stay off the roads, which were only becoming more icy as the day progressed Wednesday.

“We are seeing people not heeding the warnings and are not staying at home,” Tony Smith, deputy fire chief with the Covington Fire Department, said Wednesday morning. “We are seeing a lot of traffic on the road and are working a lot of wrecks.”

He said the roads may appear to be just slushy, but that slush is only hiding the ice underneath. By 8 a.m. Wednesday, ice was reported on the Covington Bypass, Kirkland and Spring roads, Flat Shoals Road, Henderson Mill, Brown Bridge Road, Highway 229 and Cooper Road, and Alcovy Trestle.

“We can’t state it enough: Heed the warnings and just stay at home. Enjoy the time inside the house and don’t get out unless it is absolutely necessary.”

Newton County Fire Chief Kevin O’Brien said the freezing rain started coming down around 7 a.m. and by 8 a.m. a large number of trees were already reported down. He said 15 public works units were out clearing county roadways of fallen trees.

Rockdale and Newton counties, including the cities of Conyers and Covington, have added extra crews to assist throughout the ice event. Morgan said Rockdale Fire and Rescue firefighters came in early Tuesday night prior to their shift Wednesday because they wanted to make sure they would be available when conditions turned bad. The Conyers Police Department and Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office likewise have increased units who will be working throughout the week.

Newton County also has added crews and personnel who have been working around the clock since Tuesday. Smith said all administrative fire staff are on hand to man the reserve firetrucks.

“Everything the city has is manned and in service and we will be able to respond accordingly,” he said.

Even though the trees and roads did not become laden with ice until Wednesday morning, the cold temperatures did contribute to one fire in Covington.

A house on Durden Circle near Geiger Street was engulfed in flames Tuesday evening as a result of a chimney fire. Smith said the fire department responded around 8:15 p.m. and the blaze was extinguished about 45 minutes later. The homeowner was not injured, but the home was a total loss, Smith said.