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Schools, power companies prepare for frigid weather

Georgia Power, Jackson EMC have staff ready to address outages

POSTED: January 6, 2014 1:51 p.m.

Temperatures this morning will be so low you could get frostbite in fewer than 30 minutes, officials said.

That’s not something most Georgians are accustomed to; and those who are likely moved here from somewhere else to get away from such brutal weather.

The temperature in Hall County was forecast to dip to 5 degrees overnight, with wind chill readings at 12 below zero, climbing to a high later today in the mid-20s, according to the National Weather Service.

The frigid air was enough to close Hall County and Gainesville schools, along with others across the region.

“(We) expect significant challenges with our bus fleet and school heating systems,” Hall Superintendent Will Schofield wrote in an email.

Area power company officials also were concerned about the weather, warning that high demand for heating could cause problems with equipment.

“Any piece of equipment may operate just fine under normal use, but could have problems when stressed by high demand,” said Jim Smith, Jackson EMC vice president of engineering and operations. “We expect our load to be very high during these extremely cold temperatures, which will stress our system and could cause some of our equipment to malfunction.”

The cooperative has increased staffing, with linemen prepared to respond to any outages. Jackson EMC serves many in Hall County as well as some in Lumpkin, Banks, Jackson and other counties to the south and east of Hall.

“We know that especially with these extreme temperatures, our members are relying on us to keep them warm,” Smith said.

Georgia Power, which serves Gainesville and other area cities, is also increasing personnel and bringing additional power plants online.

“With high load from the extreme cold, you could certainly have some scattered or isolated issues, but we do have teams on standby,” Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft said.

Jackson EMC members may report outages at outage.jacksonemc.commobile.jacksonemc.com or by calling 855-422-7600. Outages can be tracked at the cooperative’s outage map in the Storm Center at www.jacksonemc.com.

Georgia Power customers can report and track outages at georgiapower.com/residential/outage, or by calling 888-891-0938.

Hall County Fire Marshal Scott Cagle had some advice for anyone who may lose power.

“We would first say dress in layers and use blankets,” he said, “because what we have seen in the past is when their power goes out people will use alternative heating methods. We’ve seen everything from gas grills and, of course, the use of space heaters, and those can cause problems.”

Cagle said correctly using a space heater is fine, but keep combustible material away from it and turn it off before sleeping. Using a gas grill, or anything else that could fill a space with carbon monoxide, however, is never OK.

“It’s real popular to ... use the camping stoves when the power goes out,” he said. “And if people are going to use those, again, those need to be used outside.” Generators also should be kept outside, away from the house.

For those who have to spend time outside, Cagle advised taking breaks inside every 20-30 minutes and staying hydrated, in addition to dressing warmly.

And while school buses may not start, Cagle said emergency vehicles are stored inside, connected to power lines, and should have no problems responding to those who need help.

The frigid weather will move out by Wednesday, with temperatures forecast to rise to highs in the lower 40s Wednesday and the lower 50s by Friday.



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