Here We Go Again
Crews prepare for icy conditions on roadways
by Sarah Fay Campbell
(Editor’s note: With the possibility of icy weather heading toward Coweta, Wednesday papers were delivered on Tuesday in order to ensure the safety of the Times-Herald’s newspaper carriers while making sure papers get delivered. Check at times-herald.com and the newspaper’s Facebook page for up-to-the-minute storm coverage. For readers who see something newsworthy, send us a Facebook message and we'll get the word out.)
Sand that was spread in order to treat snowy roads two weeks ago still remains on some Newnan and Coweta streets and roads — but city and county crews are already gearing up for round two.
On Tuesday, the National Weather Service said that “confidence is increasing in an event of historical proportions.” Eastern areas of the state are expecting “catastrophic” ice totals.
At 9:30 Tuesday morning, Gov. Nathan Deal expanded the “state of emergency” to include additional counties, including Coweta, Fayette, Heard, Meriwether and Troup.
The freezing rain and snow was expected to begin Tuesday night, but the most significant accumulation will be during the day Wednesday.
In addition to one-third of an inch of ice across most of Coweta, up to 1.2 inches of snow is also forecast, with somewhat lower amounts in the southwest quarter of the county. One-third of an inch of ice is considered potentially “catastrophic.” Some counties on the eastern edge of the state could see up to 0.8 inches of ice.
The Coweta County School System announced midday Tuesday that there will be no classes scheduled for Wednesday. For more information, go to www.cowetaschools.org.
Freezing rain is considered the worst possible winter precipitation. It falls as a liquid and freezes on contact with surfaces — not just the ground but also tree limbs and power lines.
Ice storms tend to “down trees and power lines. On top of that, we’ve got ice on the road,” said Coweta County Associate Administrator Eddie Whitlock.
Coupled with that, the forecast calls for sustained winds of 10 to 20 mph all day Wednesday.
Local agencies were getting ready Monday and Tuesday for the storm response.
Coweta County crews were busy preparing on Monday. “All the fuel levels are topped off, and the chainsaws are sharpened up,” said Coweta Emergency Management Director Jay Jones.
“I guess the main thing is just seeing what is going to happen,” said Whitlock on Monday. “We’re waiting to see what kind of event we are going to have, and being prepared."
Coweta Road Department crews were staging equipment all over the county. The county is divided into four quadrants for the storm response.
Coweta Fayette EMC has mobilized employees and contract crews, and gotten trucks loaded with equipment and materials. Extra crews from other parts of the state, as well as three five-man lineman crews from Indiana, were scheduled to arrive Tuesday night to help.
“Right now, we are unsure what the impact of the ice will be on our distribution system, but we have entered emergency response mode and are on high alert,” said CEO Tony Sinclair. “We anticipate significant and possibly historic accumulations of ice by Wednesday morning, but we want to assure consumers we are prepared and ready to restore electric service when power outages occur.”
Sinclair urges everyone to take precautions in the event of icy conditions. EMC particularly recommends that members with special medical needs initiate backup plans before outages occur.
The city of Newnan is coordinating very closely with utility companies in case of power outages, said Public Information Officer Gina Snider.
City police, fire, public works, and beautification departments and Newnan Utilities met to discuss which streets were the top priorities for emergency personnel and utility trucks.
“Equipment will be stationed in different places around the city,” said Snider early Tuesday. “Our street department employees will be going home at lunch today so they can be prepared for overnight work. The city has sand and gravel ready, and we are asking drivers to stay off the roads.”
Coweta County has restocked its supply of salt, sand and fine gravel for the spreader trucks. This time, some of that material will be stored at the old Coweta Fire Department maintenance facility on Ga. Hwy. 154. That way, the road treatment trucks won’t have to be driven back to the main facility on Selt Road in Newnan every time they run out of material.
A full spreader load can only treat about 3.5 miles, said Tom Corker, Coweta communications manager.
Government officials aren’t the only ones stockpiling sand and salt.
Paul Sakrison at Newnan ACE Hardware said the phone had been ringing all morning Monday, with people asking if the store had any “ice melt" or sand.
They’ve been out of ice melter, which is calcium chloride, since the Jan. 28 snowstorm, and they were rapidly running out of sand Monday.
Late Sunday, the ACE distribution center in Atlanta received two tractor-trailer loads of ice melt. Emails were sent to all the local dealers, telling them it was available. “We were going to send somebody to get a couple of pallets,” Sakrison said. But all the ice melt was spoken for before the driver left Newnan.
By early afternoon Monday, they had about 25 bags of sand left and they were going fast. People were also calling for “oil dry,” Sakrison said. “That works well, too. It won’t melt the ice but it keeps you from slipping and sliding.” It’s basically the same as kitty litter.
Any kind of sand or salt will work, including swimming pool salt or rock salt, Sakrison said, as will kitty litter.
With some anticipating a little fun out in the snow, on Monday, ACE was out of sleds, but it did have large metal garbage can lids, with the handles removed, for $3. “They make a great sled,” Sakrison said.
The ice melting chemical stock situation was the same at Tucker Hardware.
“They have been calling for it, but we are smack out of it,” said Adam Tucker of ice melter. They are not expecting a new shipment until Wednesday.
On Monday night around 9, someone had already spread rock salt at the entrance to the Bank of America on Greenville Street in downtown Newnan.