With temperatures never making it above freezing, the roads quickly became treacherously slick, sending cars and trucks sliding into ditches, obstacles and each other.
Lt. Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office urged people to stay off the roads until they become safe.
“It is not likely that road conditions will improve until possibly Thursday. Ice is a huge concern. Roads are already icy and will likely get worse as the day continues,” Baker said Tuesday.
Baker said another huge concern is school buses that were en route as the storm worsened. Cherokee County Schools were let out two hours early Tuesday, with elementary schools being dismissed at 12:15 p.m. and others dismissed as late as 1:45 p.m.
Some buses were stranded on icy roads and others turned around and headed back to the schools where they came from, said Carrie McGowan, Cherokee County School District spokeswoman.
“Due to buses being stranded by weather, traffic or impassible roads, the superintendent has authorized the Transportation Department to temporarily suspend bus services. Until our roads are made safer, it isn’t prudent to continue to put students on buses at this time,” McGowan said Tuesday. “Students who are at school will remain there safely; a parent or guardian can pick their child up if they are able to travel. Schools will be in direct communication with parents of those students still in their care and are prepared to shelter students as necessary this evening.”
Baker said more than 132 accidents were reported on various roads from Salacoa to Woodstock between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
The main problem, Baker said, was that there are a lot of people out on roads. The threat of drivers being stranded is a big concern.
“From all we have seen, temperatures are going to continue to fall and it will be treacherous. If people don’t have to leave, we don’t want them to leave,” Baker said.
The winter storm warning will be in effect until 7 a.m. Wednesday, with snow accumulating from 1 to 3 inches across the county, the National Weather Service reported at noon Tuesday.
Snow was expected to continue to fall into the night, and visibility could be reduced to half a mile, based on National Weather Service reports.
The National Weather Service said motorists should only travel in the case of emergency, as travel will be dangerous or impossible.
“Keep an extra flashlight, food and water in your vehicle in case of an emergency,” the report warned.
Temperatures are expected to be in the low 20s and teens throughout the winter storm.
Woodstock Police spokeswoman Brittany Duncan said the department would be posting up-to-the-minute information on road conditions and closures on their Twitter and Facebook pages.
“At this time, our primary concerns are ensuring the safety of all drivers on the roadways while also treating the roads so as to continue to with an adequate response time to priority calls,” Duncan said Tuesday. “We ask that citizens remain patient, drive with caution if they are currently on the roadways, and once home, remain there unless a need to drive arises.”
Duncan said city officials are doing their best to handle the winter weather.
“City of Woodstock Public Safety and Public Works Departments continue to work diligently and are fully staffed and equipped with personnel and resources,” she said.
Baker said the Emergency Operations Center was activated at 9 a.m. Tuesday and was continuing to monitor the situation in Cherokee.