Officials warn: Use extra caution when driving

Although Georgia has been suffering abnormally cold, dry weather for the past few days, state officials are mobilizing for wetter wintery conditions expected later this week.

"The recent cold spell for Georgia is noteworthy for its length," said State Climatologist David Emory Stooksbury. "While cold, most locations have been 10 to 15 degrees above their record-low temperatures."

Stooksbury said infrequent snaps of cold weather are not unusual for northern Georgia, but the recent extended period of blustery weather is not typical.

"What is unusual for Georgia is how long this cold spell has lasted," he said. "Atlanta has already experienced four nights in a row below 25 [degrees] and three nights in a row below 20. This string of very cold nights is expected to continue through the weekend."

The Georgia Department of Transportation is mobilizing in an effort to lessen the ill effects of the cold, wet weather expected to hit the state sometime late Thursday, according to Kimberly Larson, spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Transportation District 3.

"[Statewide,] we've got approximately 24,500 tons of rock salt," Larson said. "We've got over 221,000 tons of gravel that enable you to get traction in your car, and we've got 780 pieces of snow equipment, like the scrap blades on our larger trucks."

Larson said the Department of Transportation will also have 3,624 gallons of liquid de-icer ready to use on high-volume bridges throughout the metro Atlanta area.

"Our biggest message is for people to stay at home," Larson said. "We advise all motorists to use caution, slow down, and add extra time to any trips they must make. It's very hard to prepare for a patch of black ice."

The Governor's Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) warns drivers of potentially hazardous conditions, later this week, on some roads and Interstates throughout North Georgia, starting Thursday and continuing into Friday.

The GOHS advises, if one has to drive, concentrate fully on the roadway and drive cautiously, with both hands on the wheel with the safety belt fastened.

Troopers with the Georgia State Patrol also advise motorists, who insist on driving in winter weather conditions, to have at least a half tank of gas, carry a freshly charged cell phone, pack warm clothes and a blanket, along with a working flashlight.

Stooksbury, the state climatologist, added that residents should check on elderly relatives, friends and neighbors, and maintain a warm shelter out of the wind for their outdoor pets, leaving them with plenty of fresh, unfrozen water to drink.

On the net:

Governor's Office of Highway Safety: www.gahighwaysafety.org