A freezing highway contributed to more than a dozen accidents Friday, raising questions about whether Georgia’s transportation officials are prepared for winter weather.
State and city leaders around Atlanta promised to do better after a storm last year brought 2 inches of snow and ground interstate traffic to a halt, stranding motorists and children in cars and school buses.
After receiving reports of slippery roads Friday on Interstate 20, it took the Georgia Department of Transportation more than two hours to arrive with trucks to treat the black ice. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports there were more than a dozen accidents, and the department’s pre-treatment system for roads went unused.
DOT crews were not prepared because the National Weather Service did not predict icy conditions, and it takes time to mobilize road crews, an agency spokeswoman said.
The weather service’s science and operations officer, Steve Nelson, said the agency did not inform state officials of possible black ice at a weekly briefly Thursday morning. However, Nelson said warnings of hazardous conditions went out at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Thursday and 2 a.m. Friday. A warning sent Thursday cautioned there could be “isolated slick spots on elevated surfaces for the morning rush hour” because temperatures were expected to fall below freezing.
“It seems like 80 percent of the time when things don’t go right, it’s not that the forecast was bad, it’s a communication issue,” Nelson said.
After last year’s traffic mess, Gov. Nathan Deal appointed a taskforce to review the state’s response and recommend ways to improve. Deal’s latest budget plan calls for more than $300,000 to fund four emergency management positions, one of the taskforce’s recommendations.
One member of the taskforce, WSB-TV meteorologist Glenn Burns, faulted the state’s response this week.
“They dropped the ball completely, I believe,” Burns said. “I’m just flabbergasted. It’s their job to watch the weather.”
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