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Obama declares Georgia in state of emergency, trucks possibly diverted through Athens - The Red and Black : Athens

Weather Watch Obama declares Georgia in state of emergency, trucks possibly diverted through Athens

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  • Trucks are headed for Athens

    U.S. President Barack Obama signed a Georgia State of Emergency Declaration Tuesday and semi trucks may be directed through Athens from Atlanta, both as a result of the weather. (PHOTO: © 2014 Randy Schafer, randy.drum.schafer@gmail.com)

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Posted: Tuesday, February 11, 2014 1:30 pm | Updated: 1:06 pm, Wed Feb 12, 2014.

The government's reaction to the weather conditions this week can be contrasted drastically to that of the snow storm in the last week of January.

President Barack Obama signed a Georgia State of Emergency Declaration Tuesday, which will send relief efforts across the state.

This declaration will authorize the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency — FEMA — to coordinate efforts, minimize the threat of catastrophe and provide the “appropriate assistance for required safety” in 45 counties including Athens-Clarke County, according to a FEMA news release.

Public officials across the state promised changes to safety response plans after a couple of inches of snow catastrophically shut down Atlanta two weeks ago.

Here is one of the changes: Send the semis to Athens.

Commercial trucks traveling in Atlanta could possibly be re-routed from Interstate 85 to highway US 441, which travels through Athens, as part of the state’s contingency plans for an ice storm which started Monday night and is expected to rage through Wednesday.

Jeff Montgomery, a public information officer for ACC, said the state had not made the call to start sending trucks through Athens yet, but that it was being reserved as a possibility.

“The plan is in place for them to use that route,” Montgomery said. “However, the state would make that decision if it was necessary to close I-285.”

In response, the ACC Police Department released three rules for trucks coming through town:

  • Stay in the right lane at all times on all roadways.
  • Use only the outer loop of the GA 10 Loop (Athens Perimeter) to circumvent the core of Athens.
  • Do not enter the Perimeter except to make deliveries.

These restrictions are in effect for all trucks, not only those coming from Atlanta. Montgomery said he expects the rules to remain in place at least until Thursday.

A Georgia Department of Transportation release at noon Tuesday provided an update to the conditions.

“We are starting to get reports of icing on bridges so please slow down, give yourself plenty of space between you and the vehicle in front of you and use lower gears on your vehicle for additional traction,” said Bayne Smith, district engineer for northeast Georgia, in the release. “We ask you to please stay home and not drive unless it is an emergency.”

The National Weather Service predicted “catastrophic” ice totals from Tuesday to Thursday, forecasting a third to three quarters an inch of ice on roads from Atlanta eastward along I-85. Gov. Nathan Deal upgraded 43 counties to a state of emergency Tuesday morning after announcing 45 previously.

ACC was among yesterday’s announcements.

“We’ve included health officials and power companies in our preparations because heavy downfalls of ice can knock out power supply,” Deal said in a release as his administration prepared for the storm this weekend. “I want to make sure we’re reaching out to health care facilities so they can have backup plans in place.”

Authorities expect “a significant increase in commercial truck traffic” throughout the area and will also provide message boards at key positions. Montgomery said there had been no reports of heavy ice or major traffic accidents as of 12:45 p.m. Tuesday.

The University of Georgia and area schools cancelled class for Tuesday and ACC schools have cancelled classes for Wednesday, keeping most people home. Georgia Power ramped up its presence but only reported two power outages as of press time.

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