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The potential for “decently heavy accumulations” of snow in Hall County on Friday night and Saturday morning continues to grow, according to the National Weather Service.
The weather service’s latest forecasts are calling for accumulations of 3-4 inches of snow, which could be higher in some locations, particularly in higher elevations.
Gov. Nathan Deal plans to declare a state of emergency at noon Friday for 79 counties, including Hall, Dawson, Lumpkin, White and Forsyth, though state government offices will remain open as usual on Friday.
Sid King with the weather service said a slight chance of rain Friday morning should transition to a mix of snow and rain between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., then by 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. turn to all snow for the rest of the night through Saturday morning.
The chance of snow Friday night was 80 percent as of 5 p.m. Thursday, King said, with the chance of snow Saturday morning 30 percent.
A winter storm warning is set for 4 p.m. Friday through 1 p.m. Saturday.
The Georgia Department of Transportation will begin pretreating roads at 6 a.m. Friday, mobilizing 12 brine tanks with a total of 69,000 gallons of salt water solution to spray on interstates and state routes in the Northeast Georgia region. DOT district spokeswoman Katie Strickland said the agency will transition to snow plows and salt and gravel spreaders once snow begins falling.
Hall County and Gainesville governments were also readying their vehicles on Thursday to respond to the storm.
“We have already mobilized resources for a potential winter weather event over the weekend,” Hall County Administrator Randy Knighton said in a news release. “Heavy equipment has been staged near busy roadways throughout the area, and we have confirmed our stockpile of calcium chloride for treating slick surfaces.”
The forecasts continue to predict freezing rain won’t be part of this storm.
King said the highest accumulations of snow should be within about 60 miles of the Interstate 85 corridor.
He added that if a substantial amount of snow accumulates, it could keep the daily high temperatures low and the ground covered. After daytime Friday, temperatures aren’t expected to rise back into the 40s until Tuesday.
The DOT is encouraging drivers to stay off the road if possible if the snow materializes, but if they must drive, DOT advises caution.
The Gainesville Fire Department is warning residents to use caution with portable heaters, noting the 900 winter home fires nationally each year. Some of the tips the department offers are:
• Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away.
• Plug the heater directly into the outlet, no extension cords.
• Make sure your heater has an automatic shut-off switch so that in the event it tips over, it shuts off.
• Make sure your portable heating sources are used and vented correctly.