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January 28, 2014

Snow (half) day

Winter weather strikes, causing wrecks, closing schools and clogging roads

Most of this week’s snowfall was expected to have ended Tuesday night as areas in Whitfield and Murray counties accumulated between one and two inches of the white stuff, but officials are urging drivers to stay off the roads today if possible.

Whitfield County 911 officials reported 152 accidents as of 5 p.m. Tuesday, and there were dozens more reported in Murray County.

While road crews in Whitfield and Murray counties were expected to be working through the night, road conditions were expected to worsen overnight, and more frigid temperatures are ahead for at least the next two days. Today’s forecast is sunny with a high near 29 and a low around 12, according to National Weather Service reports. Not until Thursday are forecasters expecting the area to reach near 40 degrees.

“The roads are going to get worse, but hopefully once everybody gets home they’ll figure out that they don’t need to get back out,” Whitfield County Director of Emergency Management Claude Craig said Tuesday evening.

Area schools dismissed early on Tuesday. Dalton Public Schools, Whitfield County Schools and Murray County Schools dismissed early on Tuesday as snow began falling, and Dalton State College and Georgia Northwestern Technical College also called off classes mid-day.

All three school systems and Georgia Northwestern canceled classes for today. Dalton State officials said they would evaluate the situation this morning.

Several local government offices and numerous businesses sent their employees home early as snow began falling late Tuesday morning. In the rush to beat the weather, the roadways became clogged with wrecks as vehicles slipped and slid off roads, into ditches and into each other. Officials reported the Georgia Department of Transportation was working to address a long list of roads that needed salting.

In a few cases, wreckers weren’t even sent out to the crashes for fear they would also get stuck or wouldn’t be able to do much good.

A wreck initially thought to have serious injuries on I-75 South near exit 326 (south of Carbondale) involved a tractor-trailer and six other vehicles, according to initial reports. Additional information wasn’t immediately available.

With a high just in the mid-20s on Tuesday and the wind chill expected to dip near zero, the snow wasn’t expected to melt overnight. Road crews were sent out in both counties to salt and scrape roads where possible, but Murray County Emergency Management Director Dwayne Bain said they wouldn’t likely get to all of them overnight.

“From what I understand, they’re hitting the major county roads, and to be honest with you I haven’t seen the state (road crews) out,” he said at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Bain said most of the wrecks produced only minor injuries if any. Mount Carmel Church Road from U.S. 411 to the top of the hill near it was closed Tuesday evening, but Bain said there are numerous other icy areas, including Ga. Highway 52 going over Fort Mountain. He urged motorists to stay home.

Dug Gap Battle Road in Whitfield County was closed soon after snow began falling Tuesday and remained shut down into the evening, and other roads were temporarily shut down as rescue workers responded to car crashes.

Officials put out a plea for everyone to stay off the roads if possible.

“Snow is sticking to the roads and making them slippery,” Dalton Police Department spokesman Bruce Frazier said early Tuesday afternoon. “We’ve got reports of traffic crashes all over town.”

Craig also asked those who don’t need to use cellphones to stay off of them to avoid jamming the circuits for people who need to make emergency calls. Cellphone carriers asked people to text instead.

Murray County government offices closed midday Tuesday and planned to stay closed today.

Two Whitfield County Transit buses were rear-ended by other drivers, but officials reported minimal damage and no injuries. The transit service shut down mid-Tuesday and told family members of those who use services at Crossplains Community Partners, Bridgeway Day Treatment and Highland Rivers to make arrangements to get their loved ones home or have them stay at the agencies.

Library branches in Dalton, Chatsworth and Calhoun are closed today. The Whitfield and Murray County health departments as well as the offices of the North Georgia Health District are scheduled to open today at 10 a.m.

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