Gov. Nathan Deal dispatched hundreds of state workers to clear roadways and remove debris ahead of the icy weather front set to descend on Georgia, and he delayed the opening of state offices on Thursday.
With memories of last year’s icy gridlock fresh on his mind, Deal and other state officials don’t want to take any chances with this storm front, which could dump 3 to 6 inches of snow across north Georgia. Typically traffic-choked interstates were largely empty on Wednesday and state workers were ordered to go home by noon.
“The public made what could be an emergency less of an emergency,” he said.
The opening of state offices will be delayed until 10 a.m. on Thursday, though the start time could get pushed back as forecasts are updated.
Deal said he was “very confident” of the state’s preparations but he and other officials urged caution as the storm develops.
“This is a fast-moving storm,” said Russell McMurry, the commissioner of the Department of Transportation. “It’s going to take some time. We don’t want people lulled into the sense that roads are OK. We don’t want a false sense of security to set in.”
About 500 state transportation workers are pre-treating highways across the northern third of the state, and more crews are set to dump salt and gravel on the roads as the snow and freezing rain starts to fall. Another 174 state troopers are assigned to help smooth traffic and remove debris, and newly-formed “strike teams” will be deployed to major intersections.
The state also has the power to close off major highways to tractor-trailers, though Col. Mark McDonough of the Georgia Department of Public Safety said they are loath to use it. “Lord willing, not,” he said when asked about restricting access.
The storm front is Georgia’s fourth wintry weather alert in two weeks, and Deal said he’s encouraging state workers to hang tough.
“We’re all praying for an early spring.”
Additional coverage: Atlanta under winter storm warning as precipitation moves in