Special to The U-R
THOMASTON, Ga. — The first batch of 2014 winter weather is expected to hit West Central Georgia beginning Tuesday morning. This approaching winter weather episode is a reminder for the state that Old Man Winter is here and may stay for some time.
For crews with the Georgia Department of Transportation, that means the potential for a long night keeping the roads clear and safe for the traveling public.
Winter weather preparations kicked into high gear Tuesday morning as the first shift of the maintenance crews in District Three, gassed up trucks equipped with snow plows and salt and stone spreaders in case roads become covered with snow or ice. They are ready to clear the state roadways of ice and snow and keep Georgians moving.
"Our road clearing crews always hope for the best, but train and prepare for the worst," said Clay Moore, district maintenance engineer at the DOT office in Thomaston. "These crews will be happy if winter weather never hits central Georgia; but when inclement weather arrives, our main concern becomes road conditions. Keeping the roads safe and open for emergency vehicles is our first priority. We are monitoring changing weather conditions and will treat roads as needed. Interstates will be cleared first and then state routes from the most heavily traveled to the least traveled."
In the 31 counties of West Central Georgia, the state DOT has the following resources to deal with any upcoming winter weather event:
• 342 employees on call covering 279 interstate and 3,322 state route miles
• 5,115 tons of salt
• 3,259 tons of gravel
• 57 pieces of snow removal equipment
Georgia DOT crews focus first on clearing interstates and heavily traveled state routes from snow and/or ice, and will specifically target areas vulnerable to freezing, like hills, ramps, bridges and interchanges. However, 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 Tuesday and the early hours of Wednesday 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