Local News

January 29, 2014

Snow clears, traffic problems begin to ease

A Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office deputy who was hit in his vehicle while responding to another wreck — then pried himself out of the car to help other people on scene — is recovering at home, officials said.

Maj. John Gibson said Josh Davis, one of the department’s evidence technicians, was called out to respond to traffic crashes Tuesday as responders struggled to keep up with the avalanche of calls following Tuesday’s snow. According to Gibson and a statement from the Georgia State Patrol, Davis was sitting in his county-issued Chevy Tahoe on the side of Interstate 75 south near mile marker 326 with another vehicle when a passenger van hit a patch of ice then slid into a second passenger van in front of it. The second van then spun into Davis’ Tahoe and the other vehicle he was out with while the first van rolled over on its side.

Gibson said Davis became temporarily entrapped in the crash and was believed to have been knocked unconscious for a short time before he was able to come to and get himself out. He then began responding to other people until rescue workers arrived and took him and each of the other drivers to Hamilton Medical Center for treatment. Davis was treated and released. The conditions of the other drivers wasn’t immediately available.

“He was injured himself,” Gibson said of Davis. “He helped get other people out.”

Officials reported more than 150 wrecks in Whitfield County and dozens more in Murray County Tuesday after snow began falling midday. As of Wednesday afternoon, Whitfield County emergency responders said they’d had only a handful of wrecks since the morning, and Murray County officials reported none, saying they were glad motorists had heeded advice to stay off the roads once they got home.

Sheriff’s office officials were urging people who plan to go out today to drive slowly and cautiously and watch for patches of black ice. While many of the main roads were clear by Wednesday afternoon, there were still numerous back roads that remained icy. Today marks the first day since the snow that temperatures were expected to rise above freezing, with a high in the upper 30s forecast, according to the National Weather Service.

“I don’t see any major problems in the morning if everybody will just use due diligence, take their time and slow down,” Whitfield County Emergency Management Director Craig Claude said Wednesday.

Dug Gap Battle Road remained closed in Whitfield County, and Ga. Highway 282 and Ga. Highway 52 going over Fort Mountain in Murray County were also closed as of late Wednesday.

Dalton Public Schools, Murray County Schools and Whitfield County Schools all canceled classes today as did Dalton State College and Georgia Northwestern Technical College.

Murray County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Greg Fowler said — like the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office — they called in extra people to help manage the volume of calls on Tuesday and put investigators and people who wouldn’t normally handle traffic calls to work on the roads. A fleet of Hummer SUVs they received in a federal grant was put to work as were other four-wheel drive vehicles, Fowler said.

Among the accidents in Murray County was a dozen-vehicle pileup on Ga. 225 in Spring Place early Tuesday afternoon.

One by one, cars, SUVs and a tractor-trailer began sliding off into a nearby ditch and into each other. Chatsworth resident Erik Green was among those caught in the pileup near Spring Place Baptist Church early Tuesday afternoon. He said he’s glad the situation wasn’t worse.

One vehicle, carrying a woman and at least two young children, was temporarily stuck between the truck and another vehicle, and the children had to be passed out through truck windows to get out, he said.

“It was crazy,” Green said. “It was really fortunate no one was killed or seriously injured.”

Fowler said there were a lot of bent bumpers at the wreck site in Spring Place, but everyone was OK. Emergency responders blocked off the area for several hours following the wreck, he said, and rerouted people safely around the hill.

Crash victims gathered in the church parking lot to check on one another, and someone from the church came and opened the building for everyone to get warm, Green said.

“We definitely thank them for doing that,” he said. “I wish there would have been some foresight to put some salt or whatever down on the roads to keep that (the wrecks) from happening, but everybody was taken off guard.”

While commuters in Whitfield County didn’t have the nightmare ride home that some motorists in Atlanta were trapped in for more than 24 hours, traffic locally had its own headaches.

Dalton resident Shelley Bryson said she was stuck in traffic for more than an hour going from Riverbend Road to her home on Dawnville Road. The roadways were flooded with vehicles on icy roads Tuesday afternoon as many local businesses, government offices and schools sent students and employees home early.

Bryson said even her four-wheel drive Ford Explorer was slipping and sliding on Walnut Avenue, Glenwood Avenue and Cleveland Highway. Most other drivers, she said, were taking precautions, although there were a handful who appeared to be trying to spin out on the ice just for fun.

“They could have really caused an accident,” she said. “For the most part, I was extremely surprised at how well people were actually driving.”

Fowler said that while many main roads improved on Wednesday, drivers should still be careful.

“People just need to continue to be aware of the fact if there is runoff and the temperature drops (overnight on Wednesday) it’ll probably freeze again,” he said.

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