Memories of 8- to 12-hour commutes, treacherous icy roads and highways turned into parking lots are still fresh in the minds of many motorists, but Cobb Chairman Tim Lee says county crews are ready to take on the challenge when the storm, expected to bring ice and sleet, hits today.
Both Marietta and Cobb schools are closed today and Wednesday.
“We are ready,” Lee said. “The difference here is obviously the school system is going to be out for the next few days. We have a little more of a heads up of what’s coming as opposed to the last event.”
During January’s winter storm, schools let out early causing a traffic nightmare as parents and school buses flooded the roads alongside commuters.
Lee said the county hasn’t approached things any differently but is “well prepared.”
Ice poses the most danger, Lee said, because it can weigh down trees and power lines.
“We know it’s going to be icy tomorrow in the afternoon and the evening. We know it’s going to be icy on Wednesday,” Lee said. “Don’t drive and prepare to be home for a couple of days.”
Cobb is under a winter storm watch, issued by the National Weather Service, beginning at 7 p.m. today and lasting until Thursday morning.
A mix of rain and sleet was expected to hit this morning before 10 a.m. That is expected to turn to rain during the afternoon and eventually back into sleet after 5 p.m. The weather service said accumulation of sleet is possible, though it’s expected to be less than half an inch.
Freezing rain is expected through 11 a.m. Wednesday. That will be followed by freezing rain and possibly a bit more snow to top things off late Wednesday night.
The freezing temperatures are expected to move out of the area by Thursday when the high is anticipated to be in the mid 40s.
Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency on Monday for 45 north Georgia counties, including Cobb. Deal took much of the blame for the response to the Jan. 28 storm that paralyzed the metro area and its interstates.
He said on Sunday he directed the Georgia State Patrol, Department of Transportation and Department of Natural Resources to begin moving equipment to areas where snow and ice were expected.
The governor also issued a warning order for the Georgia National Guard, which is a notice it might be called for a state mission.
Bill Shelton, Cobb road division manager, said much of the problem in late January came from the inability of county salt trucks to make their way through gridlocked roads.
“Our trucks were sitting in traffic just like everybody else was,” Shelton said.
This time, salt trucks will be staged in areas around the county so drivers won’t have to navigate through potentially heavy traffic.
It took thousands of tons of sand and gravel to get Cobb’s roads drivable after the last storm.
“We made three rounds of treating roads two weeks ago, and we used over 600 tons of salt and 1,800 tons of gravel which is 2,400 tons of mix,” Shelton said. “That is by far the most we’ve ever put down in one single storm.”
Shelton has his eye on “critical areas” that caused traffic headaches last month, like the Cumberland area, Factory Shoals area, and a steep hill at Johnson Ferry and Sandy Plains roads.
Other priority areas include those around hospitals, police precinct stations and fire stations.
Crews will be out there “way ahead of the storm,” Shelton said.
“We’re very well prepared, and barring any delays or traffic issues, we can treat all our arterial roads within six hours,” Shelton said.