Northeast Georgians, power companies prepare for winter storm

The almost empty bread aisle at the Walmart in Dahlonega. (nowhabersham.com)

With storm watches in place and forecasts looking more certain for significant snow and ice across northern Georgia this weekend, folks are getting ready. Full parking lots and empty shelves can be found at stores across the region. People are stocking up on food, water, and other items. There’s also been a steady flow of drivers eager to fill up their gas tanks.

Habersham and surrounding areas could see between 3-10 inches of snow with a foot or more possible in parts of Rabun County. There’s also the threat of sleet and freezing rain.

“I do think someone in the I-85 corridor gets a half-inch or so of freezing rain with sleet and snow dominating north of that, but it’s hard to say who gets hit hardest,” says Now Habersham weather forecaster Tyler Penland. “The higher elevations really could cash in on a lot of snow, but with a mix of freezing rain/sleet south of that, it could cause some lessened totals and bigger tree and power problems.”

Habersham EMC and Georgia Power both pulled in outside crews to help with restoration efforts after a windy winter storm on Jan. 3. 2022. They’re again pulling in outside resources to help in Northeast Georgia ahead of this weekend’s expected winter storm. (Hadley Cottingham/Now Habersham)

MORE: Winter Storm Watches issued

Icy conditions increase the chances of electrical outages as tree limbs break under the weight of the ice and fall onto power lines. Habersham EMC’s Director of Strategy and Communications Nicole Dover says that could be a problem

“Widespread power outages are a possibility given the current forecast,” she says. “Depending on the type of precipitation and winds, these could be extended or some members may experience recurring outages due to additional damage to infrastructure.”

The local electric cooperative, which serves over 26,000 members in six North Georgia counties, has already called in additional utility contractor crews to help with expected restoration efforts. “These crews will be stationed in our service area Saturday afternoon in anticipation of the winter storm,” says Dover. “We also have staff prepared to assist members with reporting outages.”

The state’s largest electric provider, Georgia Power, is also getting ready. Area manager Brent Edwards says company personnel spent the day Thursday lining up hotel rooms for their extra crews.

“Our crews will report Sunday morning at 7 a.m. with their bags packed for five days in case they have to go somewhere else if it’s not bad here,” he says. Edwards coordinated with the Habersham county manager’s office to set up a staging area for Georgia Power crews at the County Fairgrounds.

He says crews are “fully recovered” from last week’s quick-hitting winter storm and “are ready to go.”

Winter weather safety

Losing electricity is just one of the many potential hazards that can be caused by winter storms. The National Weather Service refers to these storms as “deceptive killers” because most deaths are indirectly related to the storm. Instead, people die in traffic accidents on icy roads and of hypothermia from prolonged exposure to cold.

“One of the primary concerns of winter weather is its ability to knock out heat, power and communications services,” says White County Public Safety Director Murphy. “Preparation is inexpensive and easy and can help you avoid potentially life-threatening situations.”

If you’re in the storm’s path, put together an emergency supply kit that includes the following:

  • At least a three-day supply of nonperishable food
  • Water
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • NOAA Weather Radio
  • Adequate clothing and blankets to keep you warm
  • Medications

Also, keep an extra emergency kit in your car along with an ice scraper, extra blanket, sand for traction, and jumper cables.

More winter weather safety tips to help protect your family and home:

  • Bring pets inside.
  • Weatherstrip around windows and doors to keep the cold out and the heat in.
  • Allow faucets to drip to prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Open cabinet doors to let heat reach uninsulated pipes under sinks and appliances near exterior walls.
  • Winterize your vehicle and keep your gas tank at least half full to prevent your fuel line from freezing.
  • Use flashlights instead of candles to prevent the risk of fire and keep plenty of extra batteries on hand.
  • Never bring portable generators, camp stoves and grills into your home. Keep them at least 20 feet away from your home’s windows, doors, and vents to prevent deadly carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Arrange an alternate power source for home medical equipment in case of power outages.
  • Fill coolers with ice to keep food cold in the event of an outage.

For more information on winter weather safety, visit the Georgia Emergency Management Agency or FEMA Ready.gov.

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