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More winter weather coming this weekend

Snow possible Friday night and Saturday

POSTED: January 28, 2008 5:02 a.m.
This article will be updated as circumstances warrant.

Another round of winter weather may be headed to North Georgia.

Late Thursday night, the National Weather Service said snow is likely in the region on Friday night and Saturday. Precipitation could start Friday night as either snow or rain, but may quickly transition to all snow overnight.

Accumulations are possible in the area along and north of Interstate 85, or roughly from Carrollton to Gainesville, the weather service said.

At 10:30 p.m., forecasters said there is uncertainly about the amount and location of snowfall, but initial indications suggest that in excess of 1 to 2 inches of snow is possible.

And after this snow storm, it's going to get cold. Very cold. Saturday night's temperature is forecast to be 17 degrees. 

The newest snow forecast comes just hours after about two inches fell in parts of North Georgia overnight Thursday. But Mother Nature wasn't too harsh this time around.

Gainesville awoke to an icy, slushy winter wonderland this morning with relatively few reports of problems. Some area students are enjoying a mid-winter break today thanks to Wednesday night's snowy blast.

In Gainesville, no snow day for students. But they got to sleep in. Schools in the city opened two hours late. Power companies in the area reported only scattered outages, and law enforcement worked a few minor accidents.

At 1 p.m., the temperature in Hall County had risen above freezing to 34 degrees. The winter weather advisory ended at 10 a.m.

"For the Gainesville area, everything's pretty much done with for the day in terms of precipitation," National Weather Service forecaster Sean Ryan said. Today's afternoon forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies with a high of 38 and winds of 10 to 20 mph.

Problems on the road were relatively few overnight. Hall County 911 Center director Marty Nix said operators saw a 10 percent increase in call volume Wednesday night, but after midnight operations returned to normal. Nix said there were no reports of power outages in Hall County and only a few calls for fallen trees.

Hall County Sheriff's Maj. Jeff Strickland said deputies responded to a few more accidents than normal Wednesday night. At 9:45 p.m. Wednesday, there were 10 accidents being worked in the county, all due to slick roads, Strickland said. A deputy was writing a report for an early-morning accident on Ga. 60 at Ledan Road when his patrol car was struck from behind by a car that fled the scene, Strickland said. The deputy was not seriously injured.

Strickland said traffic on the roads was light this morning.

Gainesville Police Sgt. Johnny Ray said officers responded to six accidents Wednesday night, none serious.

Teri Pope, Georgia Department of Transportation communications officer, said DOT workers have been plowing snow and pouring a salt and stone mix in 15 Northeast Georgia counties, including Hall County, since Wednesday evening.

"One hundred eighty workers came in last night at eight to battle winter weather," Pope said. "We're not actively plowing snow anymore, but we were this morning. We're doing very well."

Pope said White, Habersham, Towns, Union and Rabun counties saw some accumulation of snow, and DOT has about 30 workers currently monitoring the roads in those areas.

"Snow is easier to deal with, it doesn't get into the asphalt like ice does. All you have to do is sweep the snow off," Pope said.

The weather kept the Northeast Georgia DOT's 110 dump trucks equipped with snow plows and salt-mix spreaders busy throughout the night and morning.

Only two roads are closed in Georgia due to inclement weather, Pope said. State Road 180 Spur leading to Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia, is closed today in Towns County. The top one-third of the mountain scenic corridor on State Road 348 Richard Russell Scenic Parkway in White and Union Counties is also closed.

"We don't want to take the chance of anybody getting stuck up there," Pope said. "They always close in winter weather, and they will remain closed until winter weather is over."

Pope added the two state roads will likely remain closed through Saturday, when low temperatures are expected to prolong unsafe driving conditions.

Though there were some scattered power outages across the region due to the weather, there were not nearly as many as representatives from area utilities said they had been prepared to handle.

"As it turns out, it was not a huge ice event," said Jeff Wilson, spokesperson for Georgia Power.

Representatives from all the area power companies said they had closely monitored the weather, and had their employees on standby with enough gas in their vehicles to handle any problems that the ice might cause.

"Everything was lined up and ready to go," said Bonnie Jones with Jackson EMC. "It just didn't happen."

Habersham EMC, which services Habersham, White and North Hall counties, reported a total of around 900 customers who experienced power outages Wednesday night.

Most of those were due to a tree falling on a power line in White County and those customers were without power for no more than an hour, said Susan Baker, marketing and communications specialist for the company. But for a company with nearly 33,000 customers, Baker said Wednesday night's outages were few.

"We eased by this time," Baker said. "We're not always that lucky."

Habersham EMC's outage was the biggest weather-related outage reported in the area. Other outages caused by falling trees included:

Amicalola EMC: 12 outages affecting 135 out of some 45,600 customers

Georgia Power: four or five outages affecting 400 customers out of about 30,000 customers

Sawnee EMC: 639 customers, most in the Cumming area, affected out of 142,000 customers

Jackson EMC reported one power outage, which was not weather related, that affected about 1,000 customers.

Representatives from all the utilities said power has been restored to all customers.

Many school systems throughout Northeast Georgia, including the Hall County system, canceled classes Wednesday night just as the white stuff filled the night sky and then blanketed the ground and roads.

Typically, superintendents and their other road-watchers try to hold off on the decision until just a couple of hours before the first school bell.

"By 10:30 last night, even (Ga.) 365 was starting to get slush and ... we had 31-degree temperatures," said Will Schofield, Hall County schools superintendent.

"So, at that point, (the decision to close schools) seemed like a no-brainer. Give parents as much leeway as possible."

Gainesville city schools was the exception, however. The district decided Wednesday night and held their ground Thursday morning to open schools two hours later.

Superintendent Steven Ballowe said that Wednesday evening's decision was made on current conditions and was subject to change in the morning.

"Sometimes, it's nice to let the children and parents sleep in," he said. "If the storm had arrived with some force, we (could) say at 6 that ... we have determined we need to close."

Schofield said the Board of Education will discuss later on whether students should make up the day.

"If we follow historical patterns, students will not make up the day," he said. "Of course, (under) state law, staff will make up the day."

Teachers operate under 190-day annual contracts and administrators, up to 240-day contracts.

As for area colleges, Lanier Technical College in Oakwood, North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega, Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, North Georgia Technical College in Clarkesville and Southern Catholic College in Dawsonville have canceled all classes, day and evening, for today.

Gainesville State College in Oakwood and Brenau University in Gainesville are resuming classes at 10 a.m.

For now, the worst is apparently over. But it may not be over for the week, however. Forecasters say there's a chance for a rain-snow mix Friday night and Saturday morning.

Times reporters Jeff Gill, Stephen Gurr and Jessica Jordan contributed to this article.




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