County prepares for wintry mix over coming days
by Mark Andrews and Jessica Loeding
Feb 11, 2014 | 1793 views | 0 0 comments | 41 41 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The first round of winter weather expected to make its way in overnight Monday will be followed by a heftier punch late tonight through Thursday morning.

“We are looking at snow moving in overnight, maybe changing to rain during the day, maybe mixing with snow ... probably back to snow by [tonight]. Wednesday morning, the latest model looks like it’s more of a sleet-freezing rain Wednesday. And then all snow by Wednesday evening ...,” said Keith Stellman with the National Weather Service in Peachtree City.

During an 8:30 p.m. briefing Monday, the NWS said the worst of the wintry weather will come in late tonight, with most of the precipitation coming on Wednesday.

Stellman said Bartow can expect 1 to 2 inches of accumulation, but because the bulk will fall as sleet and freezing rain Wednesday, snowfall totals will be reduced. The system is expected to clear out between 4 and 7 a.m. Thursday.

Laura Belanger, who led Monday’s briefing, said the icing expected across much of metro Atlanta and the Interstate-20 corridor “could be a recipe for disaster,” with ice causing downed trees and power lines, and hazardous travel conditions.

If the freezing rain that occurs during the early morning hours Wednesday, if it is in fact freezing rain, then you could some impacts from that,” Stellman said. “Travel-wise, yes, I do foresee a big travel issue because we are looking at temps going into Wednesday night around 30 with the precip falling. So, yeah, the roads are going to be an issue.”

Following Gov. Nathan Deal’s declaration of a state of emergency for 45 counties, including Bartow County, local public entities announced their closings as Bartow County and Cartersville City began planning how they will tackle the threat of icy roads and snow accumulation.

“We really started [Sunday]. We have a plan that we put in place for events like this, so we’ve designated certain people to be on second shift and so I called them [Sunday] and told them not to come into work [Monday],” Cartersville Public Works Director Tommy Sanders said. “[They came in] at midnight [tonight] and then once they get through with that shift, we’ll basically be on 7 [a.m.] to 7 [p.m.] shifts and second shift will come in at 7 p.m. and work to 7 a.m. until these two events are over.

“[Monday] morning at the public safety building, we had a briefing from the National Weather Service and they’re looking at it as two separate events — there’s going to be an event [Monday] and then there’s going to be a 12-hour downtime, then there’s going to be another event coming in [tonight] that will last through Thursday. We’re getting all our chainsaws ready and sharpened with extra chains and chain oil, and we’re basically positioning, getting all our equipment filled up and positioning where we need to be so that we can react to whatever happens.

“For the first event we’re just expecting potentially icy places on hills and bridges and so for that event we’ll put out aggregate and salt as necessary. For the second event, we’re expecting icy roads. We’re expecting potential trees to come down, and of course, the first thing we’ll do when the trees come down and bring any power lines down, we’ll have to get with either Cartersville Electric or Georgia Power to determine that the lines have been turned off and then we’ll remove the trees.”

Sanders said to report downed trees during the day, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., call 770-387-5602. After 7 p.m., call 911.

Bartow County EMA Director Paul Cuprowski said while the weather predictions continue to change, the department is preparing for large amounts of ice and snow.

“We had a briefing with most of the department heads and formulated an incident action plan. Obviously, as looking at the weather reports, it’s changing by the minute,” Cuprowski said. “It’s a matter of keeping people off the roads, keeping everybody safe, and if we don’t have power outages, then I think we’ll be just fine.”

He said Bartow County and Cartersville City schools choosing to close on Tuesday will allow for emergency services and road departments to better execute their plans for dealing with inclement weather.

“We can sort of pinpoint our efforts now to keep the roads clean,” Cuprowski said. “... The biggest thing is keeping the roads clear and making sure the fire and EMS departments can respond to emergencies. We’re going to be pushing out notifications and asking people to stay off the roads.

“If we can keep people off the roads where they don’t get stuck or have accidents, we can get the plows through and the salters through to do their jobs.”

He continued, “We have a contingency plan of county 4x4’s to bring [essential employees] to pick them up and bring them to work so we can function during the emergency. ... The Houston Suggs Gym and the Manning Mill Gym have backup generators, so they would be our primary relocation [location for residents] if we have massive power outages.”

Cuprowski also address the Bartow County Roads Department’s plans as discussed during Monday morning’s meeting.

“[The road department’s] plan is to hit all primary routes [and] get them cleared up as fast as they can. The unfortunate event is that this sounds like it’s going to be lingering on for many, many hours, they’ll probably have to make multiple passes on these roads as time goes on,” Cuprowski said.

Stellman said roads may be slick this morning but temperatures in the high 30s will help later in the day. Travel will be most treacherous on Wednesday, with roads expected to improve with warmer temperatures on Thursday.

In the case of massive power outages, Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft said the company is prepared to address those situations as they occur. He also provided advice to residents encountering power outages.

“We always remind people first and foremost to stay away from any power line. A dead power line looks the same as a live power line, so you can’t tell one way or the other so we want people to stay clear, especially if children are out playing in the snow or people are out moving downed branches it could conceal downed power lines, so that is a big concern and we want people to make sure to stay clear,” Kraft said.

He said outages can be reported by calling Georgia Power’s automated system, 888-891-0938, but if a resident sees a downed power line, he should call 911

“We’re definitely preparing for it, but I think it all depends on the type of weather that we receive. Freezing rain is the worst type — or heavy, wet, snow — those will tend to weigh down power lines, they’ll break tree branches, they’ll actually bring down trees when they get all those layers of ice or heavy snow ... so we’re certainly preparing for that,” Kraft said.

He said to view a map of outages in the area, visit the company’s mobile website, www.georgiapower.com/storm.

The Georgia Department of Transportation said the department also is working to prepare for the potentially hazardous weather.

“The last winter storm forced Georgia DOT crews in Northwest Georgia to use more than three times as much salt and gravel as we normally use during a two day winter storm to keep our roads clear of ice and snow,” Ken Howard, maintenance district engineer at the DOT office in Cartersville, said in a press release. “We have been replenishing our supplies and our crews are ready to go to work keeping our highways open and safe for the traveling public.”

The release further states snow and ice clearing crews are working in 12-hour shifts using the Georgia DOT priority routes system. The first shifts began the preparation process at 7 a.m. Monday morning with second shift beginning at 7 p.m.

“When winter weather hits Northwest Georgia, keeping the state highways safe for emergency vehicles becomes a top priority,” the release states. “Georgia DOT crews focus first on clearing interstates and heavily traveled state routes from snow and/or ice, and will specifically target areas vulnerable to freezing, like hills, ramps, bridges and interchanges.”

Motorists are urged to:

• Slow down and stay behind the snowplows. The road behind the plow will be the safest place to drive. Allow at least 10 car lengths between your vehicle and snowplows or hopper spreaders.

• Do not pass. The plows are wide, and sometimes a group of trucks will work in tandem to clear snow quickly, especially on major highways.

• Be particularly aware of black ice conditions on surfaces such as bridge decks and entrance and exit ramps late tonight and the early hours of Tuesday morning.

• Remember that technology helps, but only to a point. Four-wheel drive, anti-lock brakes and traction control are beneficial advancements in today’s cars, trucks and SUVs, but they can’t take the place of good driving habits and the need to reduce speed on snowy or icy roads.

• Call 511 or visit www.511ga.org to get current information on road conditions. Georgia 511 is a free phone service that provides real-time traffic and travel information statewide, such as traffic conditions, incidents, lane closures, and delays due to inclement weather. Callers also can transfer to operators to request assistance or report incidents 24 hours a day, seven days a week. More information is available at www.511ga.org.

Motorists can access real-time, statewide, route-specific information on accidents, road work, traffic and weather conditions for free via Georgia 511.

Closings:

• All Bartow County government buildings are closed;

• Cartersville government will make a decision Tuesday morning regarding closings later today;

• Cartersville schools are closed;

• Bartow County schools are closed;

• Chattahoochee Technical College is closed;

• Georgia Highlands College is closed.