Winter storm watch issued; black ice possible

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch for much of north Georgia, including Gwinnett County. It extends through Friday morning.

Alex Gibbs, a meteorologist with NWS in Peachtree City said that Gwinnett County residents may see some snow flurries with possible light accumulation Thursday evening, "but the major threat for the area is black ice on the morning commute Friday."

Gibbs advised those driving Friday morning to "delay your commute times if you can until roads improve ... otherwise, plan ahead. Give yourself plenty of time for the commute and give yourself increased distance on the road between your car and the car in front of you."

Gibbs said the winter storm watch runs from 1 p.m. today to 10 p.m. Friday. He said temperatures this evening could descend into the upper 20s. Temperatures will likely stay below freezing until about 7 a.m.

"Slick spots could be on the roads until 9 or 10 a.m.," he said. "If you see a spot on the road that looks wet, avoid it. It looks like water, but it's usually black ice in these conditions."

On Wednesday, the Georgia Department of Transportation issued a news release stating that "motorists should be especially aware of ... bridges, as black ice forms there first and can reform quickly."

The release also advised motorists to watch for the following: "Fallen trees, with root systems weakened by drought and saturated by recent heavy rains, the potential exists for strong winds to cause trees to fall onto or adjacent to roadway; traffic signals not operating because of power outages; and high profile (large) vehicles, as they can be difficult to control in high winds."

"We are continuously monitoring current weather conditions and forecasts as snow flurries and high winds are predicted for North Georgia," said Keith Golden, Georgia DOT Commissioner.

Georgia DOT Operations Director Meg Pirkle encouraged motorists to "stay off the roadways if possible. If you must be on the roads, please slow down, engage the lower gear of your vehicle for additional traction and use extreme caution particularly as you approach bridges. If you approach a traffic signal that is dark with no color lit, then treat the intersection as a four way stop by waiting your turn to move. If the signal flashes yellow then cautiously proceed through the intersection. If the signal flashes red then stop and wait for a safe time, clear of crossing traffic, to proceed."