Snow flurries fell throughout Northeast Georgia on Wednesday, but the real weather threat to come is the bone-chilling cold settling in overnight.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory until 10 p.m., as well as a wind chill advisory through noon Thursday. Snow showers could continue off and on through the night, with accumulations up to an inch possible in some places. Driving conditions could worsen if snow gathers on roadways as temperatures drop well below freezing.
Wind chills could range from 5 above to 5 below zero in some areas. Temperatures won’t rise above the mid-30s tonight and are forecast to plunge into the low teens tonight with gusty winds up to 30 mph. That hits as thousands in Hall and surrounding counties still are without power from Monday’s ice storm.
“They predict us to be in a hard freeze, which is in the 20s or below, for the next 40 to 42 hours, so that is a long time to be in the 20s or below. We’re worried about that more than anything, and they are talking about another system moving in Friday,” Hall County Fire Marshal Scott Cagle said Wednesday afternoon.
Cagle said the call volume decreased significantly on Wednesday from the previous days of the winter storm, which reached historic levels for dispatchers.
Gov. Nathan Deal extended a state of emergency in Hall County an additional day on Wednesday afternoon.
“It allows for continued state resources for recovery efforts, such as debris removal, and helps to get the power back on,” said Deal’s spokesman, Brian Robinson.
Hall officials have set up warming centers for residents without heat. A warming station is available at the First Baptist Church of Gainesville at 751 Green St., which one family was taking advantage of this afternoon. Anyone needing transportation can call 770-531-7161.
A second station is available at Poplar Spring Baptist Church at 3104 Poplar Springs Church Road but is closing at 4 p.m. today. Flat Creek Baptist Church at 5504 Flat Creek Road will operate a warming station; no food is available there
Georgia Power reported 12,200 customers without power in Northeast Georgia as of 1:30 p.m., 5,900 of whom are in Hall County. That figure dropped to 4,409 by about 6 p.m.
“Some of these are new outages that may be happening from wind and trees or branches that come down,” said John Kraft, Georgia Power spokesman.
As of 8 p.m., Jackson EMC had about 17,000 customers still out of power, 8,803 of those in Hall, plus more than 2,800 in Jackson County, 2,100 in Banks and 1,100 in Lumpkin. Though Jackson crews had restored most power to the peak of 76,000 customers suffering outages, high winds on Wednesday caused another 10,000 homes to go dark.
At 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Charter reported 359 cable outages in Gainesville and 370 in Flowery Branch.
Gainesville City Schools are closing Thursday. Superintendent Wanda Creel said one school in the district remains without power. Officials also are concerned about bus travel on city roads made unpassable by fallen trees.
“I keep looking at the weather and the wind is concerning to me, with as much ice that’s still on trees,” Creel said.
Hall County Schools also will close Thursday for students and employees, though 12-month employees are asked to report when conditions are safe.
Other school closings have been reported, including Lakeview Academy canceling classes for Thursday. Several high school basketball playoff games scheduled for Wednesday have been postponed until Thursday.
The National Weather Service forecast calls for temperatures in the mid-20s on Thursday and another drop into the teens overnight into Friday morning. A winter storm watch already has been issued for 1 p.m. Friday through 1 p.m. Saturday, with a chance of more snow and sleet.
Temperatures already had fallen below freezing at midday in Gainesville, according to the NWS recording station at Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport.
Times staff members Kristen Oliver and Joshua Silavent contributed to this story.