Weather fit for snowmen
Residents enjoy second snowfall of week; DOT takes precautions against icy roads

LAWRENCEVILLE - While many Gwinnettians may have deemed Saturday as an opportunity to stay at home with a cup of hot cocoa, others pulled on their gloves and slipped on their coats to have some fun in the winter weather.

Three Brookwood High School students went in search of some snow suitable for sledding Saturday afternoon and said they found what they were looking for in a large patch of land behind Emory Eastside Medical Center in Snellville.

Using inner tubes to glide along the snow covered ground, 16-year-old Nick Kazmer said he and friends Michael Maldonado, 17, and 17-year-old Buddy McGrath soon ditched their makeshift sleighs and set their minds on building a snowman.

But this was not just any man made of snow, this freezing statue they said was nearly nine feet tall.

"We were out here sledding and we started to make a big snowball and then decided to make a snowman," Kazmer said. "That was basically our motive."

Maldonado said it took about two hours to complete their snowy masterpiece, which McGrath said brought flashing lights and honks of approval from ambulances driving by.

The teens weren't the only ones working hard in the winter weather.

As rain quickly turned into snow by mid-morning Saturday, transforming the county into a winter wonderland, Georgia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Teri Pope said winter weather emergency crews began working at midnight Friday to prepare for the anticipated freezing precipitation.

While snow fell for most of the day Saturday, Pope said crews were preparing for potentially icy roads.

"Snow is easy because you simply plow it out of the roadway," Pope said. "But there's the potential for black ice on the roadway, so we're urging folks to simply stay at home Sunday morning until the sun comes out and it gets a little warmer."

Rob Handel, National Weather Service senior forecaster, predicted when it was all done with, Gwinnett could receive 1 to 2 inches of snow.

"It looks like Feb. 26, 2004, measured at Atlanta/Hartsfield Jackson (Airport), we received about 21/2 inches of snow," Handel said. This was the last time metro Atlanta received a snowfall similar to this weekends' fall, he said.

While Gwinnett fire and police departments had reported no problems due to the wintry weather by press time Saturday, the wintry mix did cause Gwinnett County Public Schools to call off all school-related afternoon and evening activities scheduled for the weekend.

According to Handel, temperatures were expected to reach a low of about 18 degrees in the county Saturday night, but temperatures were expected to rise to about 40 degrees by this afternoon.

Pope said crews worked diligently, plowing snow off interstates and highways, spreading a mixture of salt and stone, attempting to counteract the ice forming on the roads.

"Interstates are our number one priority," Pope said. "Local roads like Sugarloaf, that's not our jurisdiction, that's Gwinnett County."

Dump trucks toting the salt and rock mixture drove up and down Interstate 85 on Saturday, Pope said. Truck drivers are assigned a 5-mile section of the interstate, which they are responsible for continually dumping the mixture, she said.

"God bless them, for 12 hours they drive that 5-mile section," Pope said. "It's very boring, but very tedious. (The drivers are) the first to hit the roads. It's very focused and intense."