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Henry grapples with ice storm
by Christine Fonville
February 18, 2014 03:16 PM | 1373 views | 0 0 comments | 34 34 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Staff / Samantha M. Shal. Motorists head west on I-20 near the Boulevard exit last week.
Staff / Samantha M. Shal. Motorists head west on I-20 near the Boulevard exit last week.
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Many Henry County residents braced themselves for power outages and damages during the ice storm that hit most of the region last week but “thankfully,” said county Chairman Tommy Smith, “damages were minimal.”

Much like the county’s preparations for the snow storm that crippled the Atlanta area in January, Smith said the county took the National Weather Service warnings very seriously.

“The National Weather Service was right on in figuring exactly what time and where the ice and sleet would hit,” he said.

To prepare, Smith said the county “followed a familiar routine,” by coordinating meetings with city and county officials as well as school board members and the police and fire departments.

“Our Emergency Coordinator, Don Ash, always gets the ball rolling and keeps everyone informed with initial briefings and meetings well before the bad weather is supposed to hit,” Smith said.

He said the county managed a 24-hour command center for emergencies during the ice storm and made sure to have its department of transportation ready to assist anyone stuck on the roads or to remove fallen trees and debris.

Terry McMickle, director of the county’s department of transportation, said making road conditions safer around hospitals, police and fire departments and 911 operating stations were the county’s main priorities.

“Any locations where we knew people had to be on the roads to get to their jobs was where we utilized sand trucks first,” he said.

McMickle also said the department had special requests from Georgia Power to help sand the roads and allow their vehicles to be able to travel to locations where power outages occurred.

“We did have to block off a few roads in the county because the conditions were just too treacherous, including parts of Flippen Road which runs from Stockbridge over I-75,” he said.

The department of transportation used three sand trucks, four motor graders and a flatbed truck with sand to combat the icy roads Feb. 12 and 13.

The county’s building department was also ready to inspect and assess any building that received major damage during the storm.

“I think the worst thing that happened in our county was our 911 emergency building losing power during the beginning of the bad weather,” Smith said.

A fallen tree limb cut off the building’s power briefly before an emergency backup generator could be deployed.

Smith also said that Georgia Power’s command post and weather control center kept county officials updated on power outages throughout the freezing weather.

“At one point in time, Georgia Power indicated to us that Henry County had about 33,200 people without service, but they constantly kept us informed and were able to get power restored within the timeframe they promised our residents,” he said.

By Friday, the company’s outage map showed about 51 county residences without power.

Spokeswoman Christy Chewning of Central Georgia EMC, a company that provides electricity to about 15,000 residences and businesses in the county, said about 400 outages were reported during the storm.

To help citizens suffering from the freezing temperatures if power was lost in their homes, the county opened warming shelters in Locust Grove, but Smith said he did not know of any families who used the stations.

Henry County Fire Department spokeswoman Capt. Sabrina Puckett said residents’ responses to the storm helped the department do their jobs more quickly and efficiently.

“Reduced traffic and people staying indoors unquestionably supported fire and emergency medical services, power restoration and the clearing of essential roadways,” she said.

Although Smith said he does not have an estimated value of damage at this time, the county will continue to use every precaution when preparing for dangerous, wintery weather in the future.

“We did have some trees that blocked roads and we did have some power outages, but a state of emergency was rightfully declared by our governor and our citizens stayed safe,” he said.

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