Possibility of freezing rain today

LAWRENCEVILLE - Weather forecasters are advising people to drive slowly today, as rain is expected all day and freezing rain is likely in Gwinnett and Barrow counties until about noon.

There is a 90 percent chance of a wintry mix today, as a storm system that was over Arkansas and Louisiana Wednesday afternoon moves into west Georgia, according to the National Weather Service.

Because Gwinnett and Barrow counties are in a colder pocket of air, there is a "very good chance" of sleet and freezing rain, said Vaughn Smith, a meteorologist and forecaster in the National Weather Service's Peachtree City office.

"The conditions are perfect for freezing rain," he said.

Any accumulation of ice should melt by the early afternoon, Smith said.

Schools in Gwinnett, Buford and Barrow will be watching the weather this morning. Local television and radio stations will broadcast any school closings or delays. Gwinnett County Public Schools, Barrow County Schools and Greater Atlanta Christian School will also post announcements of any closings or delays on their respective Web sites.

The Georgia Department of Transportation will also be monitoring the weather. The department has dump trucks equipped with snow plows to push snow and ice from the roadways and tailgate spreaders to distribute a mixture of salt and gravel to de-ice the roads.

Motorists should not pass GDOT dump trucks spreading the mixture, as stones that get kicked up may break a vehicle's windshield. Motorists following a dump truck should stay at least 100 feet back.

If inclement weather causes an increase in emergency calls, the Gwinnett County Fire Department is prepared and has identified resources and personnel that can be called to service, said Lt. Thomas Rutledge, the department's spokesman.

"People are encouraged to stay off the roads if hazardous road conditions exist," Rutledge said. "Even if ice or freezing rain is not a problem in the morning, the roads will be slick from the rain."

The possibility of icy conditions affected air travel as well.

Delta Air Lines Inc. canceled 200 flights throughout its system on Wednesday night and Thursday morning in anticipation of icy weather.

Delta spokeswoman Gina Laughlin said the airline hoped to reduce flight delays by decreasing the number of airplanes that sit at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport overnight - which reduced the amount of de-icing that had to be done. Such a strategy is common when ice, snow or sleet are in the forecast, she said.

Delta worked with customers with tickets for the canceled flights to find other accommodations, Laughlin said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.