Ice wreaks havoc among motorists
by Matt Shinall
Dec 17, 2010 | 2547 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Accidents piled up along roadways across the county Wednesday night as freezing precipitation created hazardous conditions throughout much of metro Atlanta.

Regional estimates topped out at more than 1,000 accidents, while locally the Georgia State Patrol reported working 44 wrecks in Bartow County Wednesday night, including an accident on Interstate 75 north involving two tractor-trailers on the Highway 20 overpass that tied up traffic for hours. A Bartow County Sheriff's Office employee said the department worked roughly 75 accidents, although an exact number could not be given.

Additionally, the city of Cartersville experienced six accidents in the first 45 minutes of inclement weather at which time they began using a self-reporting system, making a total estimation difficult to gather. Fire stations also were kept busy as the Bartow County Fire Department received approximately 75 calls.

Local motorists reported commute times exponentially lengthened both Wednesday night and Thursday morning from lingering ice and stranded motorists. Some areas deemed impassable by rush hour travelers created a parking lot along roadsides as drivers and passengers took to foot in order to reach their destination Wednesday night.

Road crews worked to remedy the situation but could not stay ahead of the icing and re-icing. According to city of Cartersville Public Works Director Bobby Elliott, the precipitation hit with impeccably bad timing and came in earlier than forecasted.

"I think the biggest thing that hit everybody in the whole area is that we didn't have a clue -- I heard on the news this morning that this came in about four hours faster than everybody thought it was coming in," Elliott said. "I think the fact that it hit right in the middle of rush hour, people trying to get home, really screwed everybody up

"We certainly weren't anticipating what we got."

Two trucks were prepared by the city to spread sand but due to road conditions and the speed at which they froze, the second crew was unable to make it to the garage. Response crews caught off guard by the severity and speed of the incoming front were left fighting a losing battle.

"What we try to do is we try to keep the bridges and the inclines that are real slick, we try to sand those for emergency and fire personnel then folks that are out can get around if they have to. But when you've got every street in town everywhere that's iced over, we can't fight that. We did everything we could," Elliott said, "but it's like trying to swat at gnats with a shovel."

Outlying rural areas caused problems for motorists as did major roadways where the majority of wrecks occurred. Numerous vehicles were left stranded along I-75 while U.S. Highway 41 limped along. These roads along with Highway 293 were the main areas of focus for Georgia Department of Transportation road crews. GDOT Communications Specialist Mohammed Arafa commented on the situation across his 12-county area and the amount of work that went into roadway treatment Wednesday night.

"From Carroll County up to the Tennessee state line we had snow and ice activities going on for between 12 and 13 hours," Arafa said. "We had 95 employees on 45 trucks equipped with plows and spreaders and all the stuff to treat the icy patches and push any snow. They treated 22 impacted highways in 12 different counties here in northwest Georgia, including Bartow County. ... These people worked from 5 o'clock yesterday until sunrise today.

"By early evening yesterday, the temperature was dropping below freezing, so certain spots after deicing them or treating them would freeze again an hour later and you would have to go retreat them, which makes it difficult and more expensive"

Arafa estimated GDOT paid for 1,128 man hours costing more than $26,000 along with 250 tons of spread material at a cost of more than $170,000 Wednesday.

"That is what we do in a winter weather episode like this. We do our best to clean the roads and keep them open and more importantly safe for the traveling public," Arafa said.

Although accidents in Bartow and across the region were too numerous to count, no life-threatening injuries or fatalities were reported.