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Column: Ready as we can be for the winter weather
Shannon Casas high res
Shannon Casas

I just received my new hand-cranking weather radio and flashlight. I’ve bought a grate for the fireplace we haven’t used since buying our house. I’ve got the all-important ingredients for milk sandwiches. We’ve got snow jackets and gloves and hats and long underwear. And we’ve got two toboggan sleds. I think we’re ready.

Growing up in Gwinnett County in the 1990s, we got a good 2 inches of snow every so often — enough to play and then melt away. There was that big blizzard of 1993, of course, but all I remember is my parents referring to snow drifts in our yard.

Most of the time, snow meant snow day. We’d pull out our sleds and trek to the nearest hill. 

I remember sledding down vacant lots in my neighborhood, catching air as we sailed off some bit of uneven land. Another time, we took our sleds to the ballpark behind our house. We must have walked at least a mile, sledding every hill we found along the way. When we got to the soccer fields, that’s where the real fun was. Tracks had been made, some steeper than others, on the hills flanking the fields. Plenty of kids had gathered to test them out.

Since moving to Hall County in 2009, we’ve seen several major snowstorms — enough that they’re beginning to blend together. We’ve sledded here and there, but we’ve also had a front-row seat to the hassle of a winter storm.

I certainly remember the time an ice storm took out our power for days. The tree in the front yard split and fell right on the power lines. We had two toddlers, no power and no water because our house was on well water, which requires an electric pump.

We suffered through one evening on the floor in the living room, gas fireplace emitting the idea of heat. All my houseplants died. 

We might have survived it if not for worrying about what the little ones could handle. Thankfully, when most winter storms hit, some places still have power and a co-worker graciously put us up. And thankfully we could get to her place. I don’t remember how we did.

Then there was the time about a decade ago when it snowed 6 inches and schools were shut down all week. The roads were eerily empty, which I only know because a co-worker picked me up in his four-wheel drive Jeep to get to work each day. I’m not sure I’d ever seen snow stick around that long.

In the newspaper business, snow means work. There may be no school — or remote school these days. Some offices may close. But journalists work. It can be a mad flurry of action checking power outage maps, calling emergency officials, monitoring emails and websites for closings and keeping an eye out for whatever angles the staff needs to pursue so everyone with internet and cell service can find out what’s going on.

So, when winter storms threaten, I laugh at the milk and bread jokes, but I also take it seriously.

The forecast as I write this is 2-5 inches of snow and almost a quarter inch of ice. 

I’m running through my mind to see what I’m forgetting. I’ve got the WiFi hot spots for the staff members who may be able to use one. I’ve got the staff winter weather plan updated. 

We’ll be checking in Sunday to see who has power and internet, who can make calls, who can update the website, and we’ll get all that to you as quickly as we can. If you don’t have our app, I highly recommend it. You can find it in the app store, and more info is available at gainesvilletimes.com/apps. We’ll send out app notifications with storm updates. Those will also come by email if you’re signed up for the breaking news newsletter. You can go to gainesvilletimes.com/newsletters to sign up for that and our other newsletters.

And while I undoubtedly will be checking into the virtual office during this storm, provided enough folks on my team have power Sunday, you’ll find me out sledding with my boys.

I don’t know how far we’ll walk to find the best hills. We’ve got at least one good slope in the backyard. But I fully expect my kids and all the neighborhood friends to be outside in the snow having the times of their lives. That reminds me, I need to buy hot chocolate.


Shannon Casas is editor in chief of The Times and a North Hall resident.

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