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Governor declares state of emergency

POSTED: January 28, 2014 8:15 p.m.

After consultation with GEMA Director Charley English and other state agency heads, Gov. Nathan Deal has signed a state of emergency declaration related to the winter storm for the entire state of Georgia. The governor has delayed the opening of state government until noon Wednesday.

“Many parts of our state have experienced heavy sleet and snowfall, and in the metro areas we’re experiencing traffic jams caused primarily by heavy volume after the quick onset of the winter storm,” Deal said. “Unfortunately, traffic is delaying the ability of crews to treat highways all across the state. I know many people are trying desperately to pick up their children or simply to get home, and I hope they can get to safe, warm stopping point soon. Once at your destination, if at all possible, please stay off the roads until conditions improve. State DOT crews will work around the clock to get roads clear; in addition, the National Guard, the Department of Public Safety and GEMA will work to get the state back to normal as quickly as possible.”

 The state of emergency declaration opens up state resources necessary for government response. It also activates the state emergency operations plan, which assigns specific responsibilities to certain agencies.

According to state Department of Transportation spokespeople, DOT crews are deployed and their first priority will be the Interstate Highway System and heavily-travelled U.S. and state routes.  The DOT will coordinate its efforts with the National Weather Service and state and local officials to best utilize resources. Pre-treatment of roads will begin when conditions warrant.   

As of 4 p.m., Northwest Georgia is experiencing largely a light to moderate snow event, as is much of northern Metro Atlanta. Metro Southside and areas south of that are expected to experience significant icing this evening and overnight into Wednesday morning. Icing could extend as far south as Albany and Savannah. 

“We usually send our crews down from the north to the south to help out with something like this,” DOT Deputy Commissioner Todd Long said. “But it’s going to snow on the north side a little bit this well. We’re going to be stretched a little thin, so stay patient. We’re not set up with a lot of rock and salt in south Georgia.”

Statewide, the DOT has 1,877 employees covering 42,500 lane miles and has at its disposal 25,551 tons of salt, 33,555 tons of gravel, 30,000 gallons of brine and 568 pieces of snow removal equipment. In southeast Georgia, there are 300 employees on call with 6,380 tons of salt, 6,980 tons of gravel and 12 pieces of snow removal equipment.

The only roads officially closed at this time are the customary winter weather closings of Highway 180 Spur in Towns County and a portion of Highway 348 in While County.

Currently classified as temporarily unpassable are Interstate 75 north and southbound in Bartow County at Highway 20, Interstate 575 northbound in Cherokee County at Cumming Highway, Highway 16 at the Spalding/Coweta counties line; Highway 141 north and southbound in Gwinnett County, Highway 9 north and southbound in Forsyth County, Highway 12 eastbound in Haralson County, Highway 61 in Carroll County, Highway 36 near Nelson Drive in Upson County, Highway 156 east and west bound in Gordon County, portions of Highways 14, 38 and 92 in Fulton County and Langford Parkway/Highway 166 in south Atlanta.  Crews are working all locations.  

If conditions deteriorate as forecast, especially in areas in middle and south Georgia where ice is forecast, the public is advised to refrain from all but absolutely necessary driving and to exercise extreme caution if they must drive. Slow down; maintain a steady speed; avoid sudden braking; and never pass a Georgia DOT vehicle treating roadways.

English said his department expects to work closely with non-governmental agencies, especially churches and faith-based groups

“I fully intend we will be dealing with those,” he said, “from warming centers to others operating chain saw crews that supplement the Department of Transportation.”

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