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Wintry mix possible by morning, then dangerous cold

Ice on roads a threat overnight; Gainesville among schools closed Monday

POSTED: January 5, 2014 8:53 p.m.

Gainesville City Schools were closed to students today because of the cold air and potential for ice on roadways this morning.

Brenau University in Gainesville also announced a two-hour delay in its opening today.

Most school systems in the area are scheduled to resume classes today after the Christmas holiday break. Hall County students are supposed to return to class Tuesday, but a decision will be made today on Tuesday’s status. 

North Georgia residents, meanwhile, are waking up to a winter blast to start the first full week of the new year.

Dangerously cold single-digit temperatures are expected to make their way into Gainesville and the North Georgia region throughout the day and into tonight. 

Black ice is a possibility through Tuesday due to the arctic blast of cold air.

The Georgia Department of Transportation planned to activate its statewide special operations center Sunday at midnight. Maintenance crews were scheduled to be out in force throughout North Georgia and metro Atlanta overnight, locating and treating highways and roads for any snow and ice accumulations.

Snow accumulations of less than half an inch are possible today, according to the National Weather Service forecast.

The high temperatures are expected to be in the mid-to-high 20s and are predicted to drop into the single digits in most areas overnight. The winds will reach 20 mph with gusts as high as 35 mph.

A wind chill advisory is in effect for most of North Georgia until 1 p.m. Tuesday, with below-zero readings likely. A wind advisory is also in effect until midnight tonight.

The forecast calls for Gainesville’s wind chill to be minus-10 tonight into Tuesday.

Temperatures aren’t expected to climb above freezing until Wednesday.

“Temperatures are definitely going to be the worst part,” Alex Gibbs, an NWS meteorologist from the Peachtree City office, said Saturday. “That’s the biggest concern as far as safety.”

Residents are advised to make sure pets have warm shelter and plenty of water. Gibbs also advises everyone to stay off lakes, ponds and rivers as hypothermia and frostbite could set in quickly for anyone who falls in.

Gainesville Fire Chief Jerome Yarbrough said he wants people to be careful when they are going for extra heat during this cold period. 

He advises keeping space heaters at least 3 feet away from anything that’s combustible; if burning wood, make sure to have screens in place and don’t leave the wood fire unattended; and don’t use the oven as source of heat.

“This is a cautionary time for us,” Yarbrough said about the year’s first significant freeze, “because this is our high-fire season, and we still have a long way to go.

“Keep the kids away from all heating sources during this time. ... Stay home, be warm and be safe.”

Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft said the company is keeping an eye out should ice form on power lines and cause outages.

“Freezing rain is a problem because it can freeze on power lines and trees,” he said. “We’ll be ready for it if any issues come up.

“Our workers are always aware that things can change in a moment’s notice. If it’s worse (than expected), we can activate other crews from different parts of the state to help.”

Kraft said customers can keep track of power outages and sign up for mobile and email alerts on the company’s website.

Jackson EMC spokeswoman Bonnie Jones said the company is prepared to service its customers as well.

“We have the same preparations as always,” she said. “The trucks are ready to roll, and everyone is on call as needed.

“Right now, it is wait and see.”

Residents took to stores to prepare for the worst should the frigid temperatures cause power outages and leave residents stranded at home

“We came for party essentials. Then the weather was on the back of my mind in case we got stuck in the house or whatever,” said Courtney Hildebrant. “We got things that we could easily make and survive.”

Hildebrant, along with her husband, Ben, are both teachers. She said it would be nice to have another day off if their school is closed. 

“Ice does make me a little paranoid,” she said.

They bought milk and are stocked with bread, sandwich fixings and cereal in case power does go out. 

Deb Parrish, a former resident of Virginia, said she was shopping Sunday more out of ritual than the weather.

“I think they overreact,” she said. “I’m from Virginia, so I find it humorous in a way. It’s probably good to be prepared, but I don’t find a couple of days to be in the house is not going to be a big deal, if that’s the worst-case scenario.

“(The temperatures) could be hard for the kids waiting for the school bus, especially when you aren’t used to it. It’s not normal for this area. I guess a delay of a school day might be smart.

“Especially if there’s ice. No one can drive on ice,” she said. “I stay home. It’s not worth the deductible on my car insurance to get into it with somebody. I’m not here shopping because I’m worried about supplies running out.

“It didn’t seem to be that bad in there, actually. I was pleasantly surprised. Actually, milk’s left and eggs and the usual stuff people clear the shelves out for. I’m hoping we don’t have bad ice.”



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