Local News

February 12, 2014

Crews readied for freezing, ice

National Guard members on hand to assist

As temperatures rose slightly above freezing for much of the day Wednesday, emergency management officials had additional responders — including the National Guard — ready to go in case conditions worsened overnight and into the week.

First Sgt. Joel King of the National Guard’s Dalton-based Charlie Troop said 19 members of the Guard responded to the call to action after Whitfield County Emergency Management Director Claude Craig requested the extra help in anticipation of a winter storm weather forecasters warned could be “catastrophic.” King said a couple of members of the Guard were called out to help in January 2011 when the area saw at least half a foot of snow, but he couldn’t remember a time since then the Guard was called out to Whitfield County since the 1990s.

While emergency responders prepped for the worst early in the week, officials said that as of Wednesday afternoon, Guard members had focused on preparing equipment and going out on “courtesy patrols” with the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office and Dalton Police Department.

King said the members will be available to help EMS workers, law enforcement officers and other emergency responders get to their destinations if road conditions are bad, and they may also help stranded motorists and others stuck in the weather. King said he expects the members to be available at least until Friday morning. Craig said several Humvee vehicles from the Guard are also available to help.

The National Guard Armory on West Crawford Street has been opened as a warming shelter for anyone who needs it. While most areas of Whitfield County and Murray County had been spared power outages as of Wednesday afternoon, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution was reporting more than 150,000 customers were without power across the state because of the winter weather.

In Murray County, Sole Commissioner Brittany Pittman said that area was fortunate to have experienced few outages halfway through Wednesday when much of the snow had already begun melting. In Dalton, North Georgia EMC issued a statement Wednesday morning confirming they had fewer than 20 power outages. North Georgia EMC officials expected those outages to be cleared “shortly.”

Officials in both counties said few road wrecks had been reported, which they attributed at least partly to motorists heeding warnings to stay off the roads as much as possible. Pittman said the county, which is more mountainous than Whitfield County, had gotten a break with slightly warmer temperatures, more rain and drizzle, and less of the snow and sleet that earlier predictions warned could cause chaos. Pittman said she appreciated the dedication of additional public works crews who were on standby to be ready to respond if conditions worsened overnight Wednesday into today.

The Murray County Sheriff’s Office warned road conditions were expected to worsen overnight as the temperature drops and to watch for black ice and refreezing.

“If you must go out, have a kit in your vehicle in case you get stranded,” the sheriff’s office posted on its Facebook page. “Have a plan and prepare if you go out. Make sure your cellphone is charged and you have a car charger in case you get stranded.”

Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office Maj. John Gibson said the fact that so many people listened to warnings to stay home Wednesday helped cut down on the number of incidents his office had to respond to so that officials were able to concentrate on welfare checks, delivering medicines for individuals who couldn’t get out, and other “humanitarian aid.”

“It’s really made everybody’s job a whole lot easier,” he said.

In anticipation of worsening conditions, Gov. Nathan Deal issued a state of emergency for 89 Georgia counties, including Whitfield and Murray.

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