Update: The National Weather Service Saturday morning warned that high winds combined with heavy frozen precipitation from the approaching winter storm could make travel in some areas of north Georgia difficult to impossible.
NWS issued a wind advisory, which begins at 10 p.m. Saturday, warning of winds up to 25 miles per hour and gusts as high as 50 mph in higher elevations.
The high winds, snow and freezing rain is likely to cause widespread tree damage and make some roads impassable, according to the advisory.
The Georgia Department of Transportation began salting roads Friday and local government agencies prepared for power outages and road closures as a winter storm approached with forecasts of 2-4 inches of snow and a ⅕ of an inch of ice in Hall County.
Hall County’s Emergency Management Agency will begin pretreating the roads on Saturday, said Casey Ramsey, agency director. He said they are hoping for more snow than ice, because it is easier to plow the snow than it is to melt the ice. Trucks are specially equipped to apply a gravel-like mixture of calcium and rock, which the county uses instead of a salt brine.
Beginning Saturday evening, Hall County’s Emergency Management Agency will provide updates on road closures every four hours.
“We will routinely post information to various social media accounts including Hall County EMA, Hall County Government, Hall County (Sheriff’s Office), City of Gainesville, and Gainesville Police,” said Casey Ramsey, agency director.
He said EMA prioritizes major roadways before working on residential streets.
Gainesville will keep a running list of road and lane closures on the Gainesville Georgia Government Facebook page, according to city spokeswoman Christina Santee.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for Northeast Georgia.
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The Georgia Department of Transportation “is anticipating a substantial icing event east of I-75 and north of I-20,” according to a press release Friday afternoon.
GDOT salted the roads all day Friday, and plow teams will be deployed Saturday through the end of the storm.
It takes about 24 hours to salt all state roads and interstates in Hall County's district, which includes 20 other counties in northeast Georgia.
"We’re asking the public to give our brine trucks some space, if they see them on the road," GDOT spokeswoman Melodii Peoples wrote in an email Thursday.. "They’ll need to go about 40 mph to apply the treatment."
She recommended people stay home Saturday night and Sunday, if possible, and people can call 511 to report any down trees or power lines.
“We don't have an estimate of how many people might lose power,” said John Kraft, spokesman for Georgia Power. “It’s going to be so dependent on what type of weather we get, the intensity and where it hits. There’s really no way at this time to predict how many outages we could see.”
Kraft said the company focuses on fixing larger outages first to restore power for as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time. For large scale storms like the one this weekend, they conduct “damage assessments” to direct resources appropriately. So if you see Georgia Power trucks drive past your downed power line, they may be doing a damage assessment before they decide which outages to work on first.
“You don't want to just throw crews out in an area without approaching it with a plan to get the most customers back on as quickly as we can,” Kraft said.
You can view Georgia Power’s outage map and sign up for outage alerts on its website. The app will also provide updated estimates as to when your power may be restored.
Times reporter Conner Evans contributed to this article.