• Never go near a downed power line or anything it is touching. Power lines are not insulated like power cords. Always assume the power line is live.
• Do not drive over a fallen power line. If your vehicle does come in contact with a power line, stay inside your car; the ground around it may be energized.
• Call 911 to report a fallen power line.
Snow began to accumulate in Gainesville on Friday evening as a winter storm began moving through North Georgia, with heavy rains and winds downing trees and power lines earlier in the day and more snow showers expected overnight.
Temperatures were hovering just below freezing Friday evening at the National Weather Service recording station at Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport in Gainesville. About a half inch of precipitation had been recorded in the afternoon after more than an inch and a half of rain fell overnight.
As temperatures fall, roads already wet from overnight rains began to ice over. Gainesville Fire Division Chief Keith Smith said icy conditions began to emerge around 3:30 p.m. Friday, with multiple car accidents reported around that time throughout the city. Smith advised motorists to stay off the roads if possible.
The city of Gainesville planned to have a 12-man crew working overnight treating roads and responding to closures from downed trees and other emergencies.
The Georgia Department of Transportation's Navigator website reports icy conditions on I-985 in both directions and a exit ramps blocked at Exit 17, with an estimated clear time of 10 p.m.
The forecast from the weather service calls for rain and freezing rain followed by snow into the evening. Ice accumulation up to a quarter-inch is expected. Up to 2-3 inches of snow accumulation is possible in Hall by Saturday morning.
Ryan Willis with the NWS office in Peachtree City said the precipitation will likely transition overnight to sleet and possibly snow.
“What that means for you is accumulations initially of freezing rain and ice, maybe getting a tenth of an inch or higher amounts in some locations,” he said. “Which may bring down some branches or smaller trees with that kind of accumulation. Once it transitions to snow, a good bet across Hall County is 1-3 inches of snow this evening into tonight, with higher amounts on the northern side of the county.”
Gainesville Police Sgt. Kevin Holbrook said the weather models presented to law enforcement Friday afternoon showed temperatures hovering between 30 and 28 degrees Friday night.
Holbrook added that high wind gusts could present a problem this morning as it did Friday morning with multiple trees down.
As of 8:30 p.m., Georgia Power reported restoring service to more than 35,000 customers in North Georgia and metro Atlanta, with about 3,400 still without power. Jackson EMC reported only one customer in Hall without power.
North Georgia remains under a winter storm warning, a wind advisory and a flood watch. More than an inch of rain was recorded overnight at the airport recording station.
Gainesville Public Works Director said city crews began to pre-treat all bridges at 2:30 p.m. Friday, as well as Dixon Drive, Lakeview Drive, in the Sunset Heights neighborhood and a steep hill at Wilshire Park on Ridgewood Avenue.
State Department of Transportation crews are spreading brine, gravel and salt on key highways, including Interstate 985 from I-85 to Ga. 369; I-85 north to the South Carolina line; and Ga. 400 from I-85 to the Dawson-Lumpkin county line.
The DOT reported snow and ice in Rabun, Habersham, Towns, Union, Lumpkin and White counties.
The Gainesville Fire Department at 9 a.m. reported five to six calls about downed power lines so far today and warned these types of problems are likely to continue given the gusting winds.
At 11:30 a.m. Friday, Georgia Power reported two outages in South Hall affecting about 70 customers, and another outage in Gainesville hitting just a handful of homes.
Power lines were down earlier on Ahaluna Drive off Dawsonville Highway, and the roadway was closed as Georgia Power worked to restore it. The area is clear now.
Gainesville Public Works Director David Dockery said South Enota Drive near St. Michael Catholic Church had been closed by the police department Friday morning due to a power line being down.
Elsewhere, “there are a few downed trees around town, but none are blocking local roadways,” Dockery said.
Hall County Public Works Director Ken Rearden told The Times crews are working 12-hour shifts all weekend to clear storm damage.
“A few trees down but we are keeping up with them so far,” Rearden said.
Tree branches were reported to be iced over from freezing rain in Habersham County with ice and snow accumulating.
Northeast Georgia Department of Transportation crews are scouting roads and treating isolated icy spots as well as plowing roadways in Union, Towns, Rabun, Lumpkin and Habersham counties.
The DOT plans to begin applying brine, salt and gravel to roadways in metro Atlanta as soon as rain moves out, with crews starting their shifts at noon. The latest forecast showed a window 2-6 p.m. in metro Atlanta where crews can spread materials.
“Our biggest concern is the small window of time that we have to get ahead of the snow and ice that is forecasted,” Georgia DOT Commissioner Russell R. McMurry said. “We will have our crews strategically placed in locations where they can quickly spread the materials on all the major interstates and state routes. But we must have the public’s cooperation in this effort. We cannot spread the materials if we are stuck in traffic; and without the materials on the roadway before the snow hits, we lose a valuable tool in fighting the effects of this winter storm.”
Staff members Joshua Silavent, Kristen Oliver and Nicholas Watson contributed to this story.