0118SNOWkidAUDMikayla Daniel, a 6-year-old first-grade student at Sardis Elementary, discusses her snow day fun. Also, visit the winter storm photo gallery.
0118SNOWteacherAUDHeather Hayes, a sixth-grade English teacher at Chestatee Middle School, discusses her plans for her unexpected day off over lunch with other Hall County teachers Thursday at Longstreet Cafe.
This article will be updated as circumstances warrant.
Though Mother Nature wasn’t too harsh this time around, another storm system is on its way and could bring more snow, sleet and rain throughout the weekend.
Meteorologists with the National Weather Service in Peachtree City say they’re not sure exactly what will happen this weekend; only that it will be cold, and a combination of rain, snow and sleet is likely.
"There’s a lot of question as to how strong this is going to be," said meteorologist Kent McMullen. "(The storm system) hasn’t even developed yet."
However, McMullen did say there are chances of snow accumulation late tonight with temperatures in the low 30s.
Temperatures will drop Saturday with lows around 15 degrees and an 80 percent chance of precipitation.
However, "by late Saturday afternoon, it should be gone," McMullen said.
On Thursday, dozens of Hall County students and teachers took refuge from the cold at Longstreet Cafe in Gainesville.
Malik Daniel, a 10-year-old fifth-grade student at Sardis Elementary, said he certainly was not sad to awake Wednesday morning to find snow on the ground and school canceled.
"I didn’t have to go to school and could play video games all day," he said. "We rolled down the hill and threw ice balls at each other. We built a snowman, but it got run over."
His sister, Mikayla Daniel, a 6-year-old first-grade student also at Sardis Elementary, said she went out to see the snow as soon as she woke up.
"Once we got done rolling down the hill, my face got into the ice," Mikayla said, "And I’m like, ‘I can’t feel my lips.’"
Hall County school students weren’t the only ones jumping for joy at the snow day cancellation. Teachers also were taking advantage of their day off.
Web Daniel, father of Malik and Mikayla Daniel, is the girls’ basketball coach at Chestatee High School. Daniel and his children joined a group of Hall County school teachers for lunch at Longstreet Cafe.
"I get to hang out with my kids all day, and that’s fun," Daniel said. "They’ve been up since about six o’clock this morning out in the snow, getting wet and just messing up the house."
"It’s a very exciting, unexpected break, and we’d like to thank Will Schofield," said Heather Hayes, a sixth-grade English teacher at Chestatee Middle School. "We planned our day for Longstreet for lunch, then Nintendo Wii in the afternoon."
And then there were folks on their lunch break at Longstreet Cafe who had to show up for work despite the dusting of snow.
"I’ve been here for 32 years and it always amazes me how when we hear of snow, everybody runs out and buys batteries and milk and then the schools are closed," said Realtor Roger Roesler. "Where I’m from up in Wisconsin, we only closed the schools one time and that was in 1947 when it snowed about three feet. But we’d trudge to school two miles in the snow. I mean, that’s the way it was. Down here ... they just panic when it snows — it’s kind of humorous."
Hall County Sheriff’s Maj. Jeff Strickland said deputies responded to a few more accidents than normal Wednesday night. At 9:45 p.m. Wednesday, there were 10 accidents being worked in the county, all due to slick roads, Strickland said. A deputy was writing a report for an early-morning accident on Ga. 60 at Ledan Road when his patrol car was struck from behind by a car that fled the scene, Strickland said. The deputy was not seriously injured.
Strickland said traffic on the roads was light Thursday morning.
Gainesville Police Sgt. Johnny Ray said officers responded to six accidents Wednesday night, none serious.
Teri Pope, Georgia Department of Transportation communications officer, said DOT workers have been plowing snow and pouring a salt and stone mix in 15 Northeast Georgia counties, including Hall County, since Wednesday evening.
"One hundred eighty workers came in last night at 8 to battle winter weather," Pope said. "We’re not actively plowing snow anymore, but we were (Thursday) morning. We’re doing very well."
Pope said White, Habersham, Towns, Union and Rabun counties saw some accumulation of snow, and DOT has about 30 workers currently monitoring the roads in those areas.
"Snow is easier to deal with. It doesn’t get into the asphalt like ice does. All you have to do is sweep the snow off," Pope said.
Only two roads are closed in Georgia due to inclement weather, Pope said, and added that they will likely stay closed through Sunday.
State Road 180 Spur leading to Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia, is closed today in Towns County. The top one-third of the mountain scenic corridor on State Road 348 Richard Russell Scenic Parkway in White and Union Counties is also closed.
Though there were some scattered power outages across the region due to the weather, there were not nearly as many as representatives from area utilities said they had been prepared to handle.
Habersham EMC, which services Habersham, White and North Hall counties, reported a total of about 900 customers who experienced power outages Wednesday night. Other outages caused by falling trees included:
Amicalola EMC: 12 outages affecting 135 out of some 45,600 customers.
Georgia Power: four or five outages affecting 400 customers out of about 30,000 customers.
Sawnee EMC: 639 customers, most in the Cumming area, affected out of 142,000 customers.
Jackson EMC reported one power outage, which was not weather related, that affected about 1,000 customers.
Representatives from all the utilities said power has been restored to all customers.
Many school systems throughout Northeast Georgia, including the Hall County system, canceled classes Wednesday night just as the white stuff filled the night sky and then blanketed the ground and roads.
Typically, superintendents and their other road-watchers try to hold off on the decision until just a couple of hours before the first school bell.
"By 10:30 (Wednesday), even (Ga.) 365 was starting to get slush and ... we had 31-degree temperatures," said Will Schofield, Hall County schools superintendent. "So, at that point, (the decision to close schools) seemed like a no-brainer. Give parents as much leeway as possible."
Gainesville city schools was the exception, however. The district decided Wednesday night and held its ground Thursday morning to open schools two hours later.
Superintendent Steven Ballowe said that Wednesday evening’s decision was made on current conditions and was subject to change in the morning.
"Sometimes, it’s nice to let the children and parents sleep in," he said. "If the storm had arrived with some force, we (could) say at 6 that ... we have determined we need to close."
Schofield said the Board of Education will discuss later on whether students should make up the day.
"If we follow historical patterns, students will not make up the day," he said. "Of course, (under) state law, staff will make up the day."
Teachers operate under 190-day annual contracts and administrators, up to 240-day contracts.
As for area colleges, Lanier Technical College in Oakwood, North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega, Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, North Georgia Technical College in Clarkesville and Southern Catholic College in Dawsonville canceled all classes Thursday.
Gainesville State College in Oakwood and Brenau University in Gainesville resumed classes at 10 a.m. Thursday.
Times reporters Jeff Gill, Stephen Gurr and Jessica Jordan contributed to this article.