Winter storm shuts Coweta down for nearly a week

It was neighbors helping neighbors on Breckenridge Drive in the Bedford Forest subdivision off Ga. Highway 154. Jeremy Carlisle (left) and Blake Adams operated the blowers while Carol Adams (red jacket) works with youngsters Jilleyn (in pink) and Jensyn to help clear her driveway. Their work Tuesday afternoon came in the wake of the winter storm that began Sunday and closed schools and most businesses in Coweta County and metro Atlanta on Monday and Tuesday.

What a week. What started last Sunday with warnings from the National Weather Service turned out to be exactly what was forecast: a major winter storm that essentially paralyzed Coweta County and all of north Georgia for much of the week. Today things are getting back to normal, except for last night’s low that hovered around the single digits.

The combination of snow, sleet and freezing rain that began Sunday night and continued into Tuesday quickly led to a shutdown of Coweta County’s schools and governments. Businesses, too, were affected as citizens complied with warnings to stay off county roadways. Icy conditions persisted through the week due to temperatures that could not climb out of the 30s.

Coweta County EMA Director Jay Jones in evaluating the winter storm said local officials started receiving notification from the National Weather Service toward the end of last week through a number of conference calls.

“The calls helped us to prepare, we got daily updates and we were able to ask questions” Jones said. “Those calls were real helpful.”

What became the onslaught of freezing precipitation was combatted by county agencies, with the opening of the Emergency Operations Center at the 911 center, said Jones. The operations center functioned as the nerve center for the Coweta County Fire Department, Public Works and the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office. The center was also used to coordinate communication with other agencies such at the Health Department, said Jones.
“The agencies could all collaborate face-to-face,” Jones explained, adding that the various agencies had called in additional staff to bolster the anticipated need. “All in all, it went real well.”

Areas across Coweta received a total of approximately 2.5 inches of frozen precipitation during the period. And waiting on the storm were county trucks that were loaded with sand and salt, said Jones.

But with all the advanced preparation there was still the combination of freezing rain and sleet and temperatures well below freezing that turned roads into something that more easily resembled an ice skating rink than an a roadway. And that slick ice was still in evidence on some side streets late into the week.

Yet from the beginning of the storm and until its end there were no road closures in the county, though there were times when the little traffic on the road had to be stopped temporarily for sand and salt to be applied to roadways.

Assessing the overall experience of the winter storm, Jones said “the local response was great. The response was coordinated and most everybody heeded the warning to stay off the road. And because of that we had few accidents and none of those were major.”

Using the long lens of time, Jones added a perspective to the winter storm of January 2011.

“This was pretty much the biggest winter storm since the one in March 1993, but it was not as bad as in 1993,“ said Jones.

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