Ice causes wrecks, blackouts
By Faye Ellison and Bonnie K. Sargent
While the wintry mix of sleet, snow and freezing rain melts around the area, the winter storm that began early Monday morning left hundreds of people without power, closed area schools for Monday and Tuesday and put a halt to area business because of icy roadways.
Carol Boatwright, a media representative with Georgia Power, said they had about 477 customers without power in Jefferson County on Monday, Jan. 10. She said there were about 6,500 customers without power statewide.
“Our outages have been less than we anticipated,” she said. “We have been very fortunate.”
Boatwright said Georgia Power had crews out working actively and they had been doing very well in getting people’s power back on.
Steve Chalker, a Jefferson Energy representative, said they had just over 1,000 customers without power, primarily in south Jefferson County and parts of Emanuel and Burke counties. He said Jefferson Energy also had crews out working.
“We’re going to work until we get it all taken care of,” he said, adding that it was slow going because of the dangerous conditions of the road. “Safety and efficiency are both very important in this case.”
Chalker said customers are encouraged to call if they have power outages, whether it’s because of a storm or a much smaller scenario.
Lamar Baxley, the EMA director for Jefferson County, said the ice caused several traffic accidents with only a few minor injuries. He said there were also many limbs down on power lines.
Baxley said a crowd of businesses were shut down in Jefferson County, including government offices and schools. Baxley said in the future, people should stay off the roads during and after winter storms, unless it is absolutely necessary.
Jefferson County Administrator Paul Bryan said in the preparation for the winter storm, motor graders were located throughout the county.
“We loaded our trucks with sand,” Bryan explained. “We sanded all the bridges prior to the event. We had staff on standby throughout the time to sand and remove trees from the roads.”
For the Jefferson County School System, Superintendent Dr. Molly Howard said the decision was made to cancel school for Monday and Tuesday on Sunday afternoon.
“When we saw that the front that the weather service was predicting was truly coming like it was supposed too, we canceled school for students and employees,” Dr. Howard said.
On Tuesday, Dr. Howard, along with other school staff were riding the dirt roads in Jefferson County to see if buses will be able to pick up students early Wednesday morning.
Dr. Howard reported Tuesday afternoon after seeing what ice was left in the area, that teachers and staff will report to work at 9 a.m., while students will have a two-hour delay.
The regular Board of Education meeting was also canceled on Tuesday, but will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 18, at 7 p.m.
Glascock County Commission Chairman Anthony Griswell said his area was on the borderline of different types of precipitation from the winter storm.
“Here we probably got about a good 2 inches of a snow and sleet mixture,” he said. “It was very good that we didn’t have much on the power lines and trees.”
While traveling to Hazlehurst and Adrian, he said he noticed that places south of Glascock County, such as most of Jefferson County, received mainly ice. The regular scheduled commission meeting was canceled for Tuesday, but will be rescheduled, Griswell said.
“These are tough times to be out on the roads,” he said. “It is thawing right now and at some point will freeze back because of the expected low temperatures. I am noticing in Mitchell that there is starting to be some traffic. And it would be good to have some traffic this afternoon to help melt the roadways.”
Griswell said as far as he knows, there were no injuries or accidents reported because of the storm.
“Hopefully this was just two days of extra rest,” he chuckled.
In preparation, Griswell said Road Superintendent Dale Reed, had road crews putting gravel on bridges and other areas in Glascock County that would cause a problem for vehicles. Also the county offices as well as the school was closed on Monday and Tuesday.
“It kind of looked a little bit by a ghost town Monday,” Griswell said. “Everybody kind of stayed home. It was after lunch before we saw many people traveling on the roads. We closed the courthouse on Monday, and personnel came in today (Tuesday) for things that had to be done. In this part of the country we are not prepared for this kind of stuff, but it will clear up in a little while.”
Griswell cautioned Glascock motorists to take their time while traveling in the area until the ice has thawed.
Police look for armed robbers
By Carol McLeod
An investigator with the Wrens Police Department said Tuesday they are still looking for two men who are suspects in an armed robbery that occurred last week.
“There was a robbery by unknown persons in a white car,” said the investigator, David Leonard.
The men stopped an assistant manager and another employee of Ingles on North Main Street in Wrens about 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 6, as they were going to the bank with a night deposit, Leonard said.
The incident occurred in the parking lot of the store, he said, adding one of the suspects pointed a pistol at the victims.
Leonard said the only description they have is the suspects were both black men in a small white car.
“No one was injured,” he said.
Leonard said he wanted to remind business owners to call the police department if they need escorts.
“We want them to call us,” he said. “We appreciate them calling us. We solicit them calling us.
“Anytime any business feels uncomfortable going to the bank or closing up, they can call the Wrens Police Department or 9-1-1 and ask for an escort. It’s part of our service; and, there’s no charge.”
Leonard is asking anyone with any information about the robbery or the suspects to call him or WPD Chief David Hannah at the station at 706-547-3000. All information will be kept confidential, he said.
“Be safe. If you’re not comfortable, call us and we will come as soon as we can to give you an escort to the bank or be there while you close the store.”
Weather experts discuss storm and predictions
By Faye Ellison
Sunday afternoon began a week of worry for the area, when a winter storm passed through Jefferson and Glascock counties dropping a wintry mix of sleet, snow and freezing rain.
On Friday, the National Weather Service in Peachtree City issued a weather statement predicting a chance of snow across north and central Georgia beginning Sunday night.
“A low pressure system is expected to develop over the northern Gulf of Mexico on Sunday, then track across north Florida and off the Georgia Coast through late Monday,” the statement said. “This system will begin spreading moisture into the state Sunday afternoon and continue through at least early Tuesday.”
Tuesday, the National Weather Service issued an explanation of the weather seen Sunday through Monday.
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“An upper level disturbance tracked across the northern Gulf of Mexico, drawing abundant moisture into the Southeastern U.S.,” the statement said. “Prior to the arrival of the moisture, a large, cool area of high pressure was entrenched over the southern United States. This helped set the stage for one of the more significant winter weather events in years. Warm, moist air transported north by the low pressure system overrode the cool, dry air at the surface Sunday night.
“As mid-level rain and snow fell into the cold surface air, it evaporated and caused the surface temperatures to cool even further. By late Sunday evening, the precipitation reached the surface, appearing as a mix of rain, sleet and snow across central Georgia, with accumulations of up to two inches. In north Georgia, where the cold air was deeper, precipitation fell in the form of mostly snow with some sleet.”
Though some portions of Georgia saw snow up to 10 inches in elevated areas, the ice accumulations around central Georgia ranged from .1 to 2 inches by Monday, with help from the continuing freezing drizzle and freezing rain. John Reed, with WPEH, said the city of Louisville received .93 inches of precipitation from the storm.
According to Nate Mays with the National Weather Service, this is nothing out of the ordinary for the winter, everything fell into place to bring ice and snow to the area.
“We are in the middle of winter, really,” Mays said Tuesday. “This was a pretty good storm that came through. But, overall, we are not setting any record lows. The Gulf’s moisture over the cold air resulted in freezing rain and sleet. Some areas in Georgia had 8 inches of snow, but others received one-tenth to a quarter inch of glaze.”
Although the winter storm is over and moving on, the National Weather Service is still advising citizens to be safe while driving.
“Driving conditions will remain treacherous across north and much of central Georgia,” the Weather Service stated. “North Georgia and parts of central Georgia still have snow, sleet and ice on the ground. Temperatures will climb to just above freezing Tuesday, but will drop back into the 20s tonight. This will allow for any moisture on the sidewalks and roadways to freeze.”
Although the best option is not to drive in these hazardous conditions, use extreme caution while traveling. The Weather Service advised to slow down and leave extra time to reach any destination.
Throughout the rest of the week, the National Weather Service expects temperatures to reach highs in the 40s and lows in the 20s, with the weekend warming up with highs in the 50s and lows in the 30s beginning Saturday.