Monday night brought the kind of winter storm Hall County residents wished had rolled through last week in place of crippling ice that knocked out power to tens of thousands.
Snow flurries began around 3 p.m. in Gainesville, the first flakes of what forecasters say could total up to 4 inches overnight and into Thursday, possibly more in North Hall and the mountain counties. It may have major impacts on roadways.
A winter storm watch was upgraded to a warning late Tuesday afternoon, and runs through 10 a.m. Thursday, according to information presented by the National Weather Service at a briefing to public safety officials at the Hall County Emergency Services headquarters.
The forecast calls for 2-6 inches to fall in the storm’s path, which stretches from south of Atlanta to the Northeast Georgia mountains, with mountain areas receiving the most.
Temperatures are expected to hover between 30 and 34 degrees, depending on snowfall.
Precipitation should subside around 2 a.m. Thursday, according to the weather service, but freezing temperatures could mean roads are still hazardous during the morning commute.
Schools were closed in Hall and Gainesville and throughout the area today.
Hall County Public Works Director Ken Rearden said county road crews would pretreat bridges and some roadways with salt, gravel and other material to limit the snow’s accumulation.
Public safety officials said they would monitor the storm’s impact from the Resource Operation Center, which acts as a kind of “war room” to coordinate storm response between local agencies. The center is located at the Hall County Emergency Services headquarters in Gainesville.
“We’re hoping and praying for the best,” said Gainesville Police Department spokesman Cpl. Kevin Holbrook.
Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency beginning at 2 p.m. today and ordered all state offices in North Georgia to close at that time.
Deal said he was very confident in the state's preparations. Following a January 2014 ice storm that crippled metro Atlanta, Deal convened a task force to make recommendations of how to better prepare. He said Wednesday that state agencies have ably handled three weather situations in the last 10 days.
"I believe the lesson we are learning even of this morning as we noted the smaller volume of traffic on the interstates is that the public is willing to be a participating partner," he said
Monday night’s snowfall created few problems in Hall County, with no power outages and few reported wrecks.
“Very quiet overnight,” said Hall County Fire Services spokesman Scott Cagle. “We had a skeleton crew in the (emergency operations center) overnight with nothing really going on ... just a couple of medical calls overnight.”
Gainesville Public Works Director David Dockery said road maintenance crews reported to work at 3 a.m. Monday.
“At 5:30 a.m., we began treating reported trouble spots,” he said, adding that city workers would likely pretreat bridges and other roadways with salt ahead of today’s snowfall.
Local government still has its hands full from last week’s ice storm.
More than 100 trees were removed from Gainesville streets, and more than 20 intersections were impassable in the immediate aftermath of the storm.
Gainesville City Council voted Friday to allocate $50,000 to support continued cleanup efforts, including tree and limb removal.
There is no estimate on the storm’s total cost to the city, but Dockery said disposing of trees and other debris could run $65,000.
Rearden said his department would present a plan later this week for additional funding to support cleanup efforts, which could take weeks to finish.
Government offices closed early Wednesday.