published Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Ice deters drivers on I-75

  • photo
    James Warner, right, and his wife, Gail, talk about driving the perimeter road around Atlanta on Wednesday morning while taking a break at the Tennessee Interstate 75 Welcome Center in East Ridge. "We drove it in the daylight," Warner said. "It was just easier to see which lane was best, with the ice and all."
    Staff Photo by Tim Barber

Snow and ice cut traffic at the Tennessee Welcome Center on Interstate 75 to a fraction of its usual pace Wednesday.

While the welcome center offers a 24-hour facility to travelers, Wednesday was the first day that assistant Jean Milligan was able to make it to work since Sunday night.

As of 11 a.m., only a handful of people had stopped at the center, she said.

"We get anywhere from 300 to 500 people here daily," Milligan said. "We've had about 20 to 25 people so far today. It's going to be a slow day."

Motorists traveling north said highways and interstates around Atlanta were down to a few slick lanes.

James and Gail Warner drive a tractor-trailer for Chattanooga's Estes Trucking. The couple was driving from Tampa to Indianapolis on Wednesday and took the Interstate 285 beltway in Atlanta.

"It was pretty treacherous. There was ice all over the place," James Warner said while standing beside his truck. "Most of the snow had been plowed, but there was a lot of ice."

Icy roads made worse by low temperatures greeted commuters in North Georgia and metro Atlanta on Wednesday, but the National Weather Service predicted that sun and winds would combine to clear away some of the snow and ice, The Associated Press reported.

John McDermott, of Charleston, S.C., was traveling with his wife to Nashville to the Grand Ole Opry. He said they stayed Tuesday night in Cartersville, Ga., before driving on to Nashville on Wednesday.

"I-285 was down from six lanes to two," McDermott said.

Chuck Hammill, of Griffin, Ga., was chipping ice off his rear window at the Tennessee Welcome Center. He said the window's defroster had been turned on ever since he left his home south of Atlanta.

For shipping companies such as Chattanooga-based U.S. Xpress, ice and snow are just a part of the business.

U.S. Xpress spokesman Greg Thompson said his drivers find winter some place in the country from October through April.

Though the 8 to 10 inches of snow that blanketed the Southeast isn't typical, they can deal with it, Thompson said.

"We've been reaching out to our customers," he said. "Most of them understand what is going on."

Thompson said drivers of the 8,000 trucks in the U.S. Xpress network get twice-daily updates of weather conditions on their routes. Drivers are the eyes and ears of the company, he said, and if they feel the roads aren't safe ,it's their decision to stop.

"All trucking companies have to deal with this," Thompson said. "You have to be prepared and work through the situation while keeping safety your first priority."

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