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Late Reaction To Icy Mess on I-75

Interstate 75 turned into an icy parking lot for drivers in north Georgia leaving people stranded for hours. But just across the state line I-75 in Tennessee was, for the most part, clear and free of ice.

So why the difference when the same weather system moved through?

NewsChannel 9 learned Tennessee is better prepared and equipped than Georgia to handle winter weather and icy roads. While the Georgia Department of Transportation took a reactive approach the Tennessee Department of Transportation began taking proactive measures hours before the ice storm moved into the region.

Wednesday night a parking lot of cars and big rigs stretched for nearly 10 miles on I-75 in Catoosa and Whitfield counties. Blame it on ice, dozens of crashes and rush hour traffic coming to a standstill.

“I’ve never seen so many tractor trailers, you get up there on the interstate and look both ways there’s nothing but three lanes of tractor trailers parked,” driver Dave Jarman of Illinois said.

Brandon Houston was going to pick up a friend from work before he joined the pile up near the Ringgold exit, spinning out of control.

“Got maybe three miles down the interstate, lost control and did a couple 360s in the middle of the interstate,” Houston said.

In Catoosa County alone officers worked 43 crashes within four hours, 30 of them on I-75. A few of those wrecks left people injured.

“Goodness, I mean the easiest way to explain it, is it was controlled chaos,” Catoosa County Sheriff’s Office Major Gary Sisk said.

Making things worse, GDOT salt trucks could not get to the icy problem areas because the highway was clogged with vehicles. GDOT spokesman Mohamed Arafa said their salt trucks started working about 5:00 p.m. Wednesday on I-75 once the frozen precipitation had already started.

TDOT crews began taking proactive measures many hours before the icy weather hit by applying a brine, or salt water solution to roads early Wednesday morning.

“It has been very beneficial to us, it’s helped us out a lot plus it’s very economical, it averages about seven cents a gallon,” TDOT spokesperson Jennifer Flynn said.

A comparison of how both states are equipped to handle snow and ice removal is eye-opening. In the Chattanooga region TDOT had 202 salt trucks spreading 47,300 tons of salt  on area highways. The region also has 115 brine spreaders. In Hamilton County alone TDOT spread 1,600 tons of salt. 

Arafa and GDOT deputy press secretary Jill Goldberg said they had 28 salt trucks in the northwest Georgia region that spans from the northern reaches of the metro Atlanta area to the Tennessee state line. All together they spread about 700 tons of salt along the I-75 corridor during the winter storm. 

Afara said GDOT stopped using brine spreaders about two years ago. Goldberg said GDOT has faced budget cuts which has an impact on what services they can deliver.

Once the salt spreading operation began in northwest Georgia late Wednesday crews found they had to spread a second, or even third coating in some cases because of re-freezing.

Statewide TDOT has 837 salt trucks, 174,381 tons of salt and 544 brine spreaders with an annual budget for snow and ice removal of $14,743,750. The Chattanooga area, also known as TDOT region 2, has an annual snow and ice removal budget of $3,685,938.

Georgia has about $10,000,000 a year to spend for highway emergencies statewide that includes winter weather as well as other natural and man-made calamities, Goldberg said.

While Tennessee does have a colder climate with more snow than Georgia TDOT officials say preventing dangerous conditions from happening in the first place is a priority.

“Our main goal is to ensure the traveling safety of the public, we do believe the proactive approach definitely helps,” Flynn said.

The Georgia State Patrol reported 277 crashes in northwest Georgia during the winter storm  between the Tennessee state line and Atlanta.

 

This news, Late Reaction To Icy Mess on I-75 quoted from News Channel 9

Short URL: http://www.usnews9.com/?p=4514

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