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Area sees few effects from winter weather
Bulloch schools, Georgia Southern open Thursday
W 012914 WINTER STORM 01
With ice clinging to the rear view mirror of his tractor trailer, Ronnie Mack of Jacksonville, Fla. gasses up at Po Jo's Gas n Go on U.S. Highway 301 South off of I-16 around 11 a.m. Wednesday before heading to Augusta to drop off some automobiles at a dealership. Mack said the highways were virtually deserted. "I could count the cars I passed," he said. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Some ice accumulated on bridges and overpasses early Wednesday morning, but all of Bulloch County’s roads were officially reopened by noon.

Bulloch County public schools, Georgia Southern University, East Georgia State College, Bulloch Academy and Charter

Conservatory resume classes today after winter storm warnings prompted cancellations Tuesday and Wednesday.

Ogeechee Technical College and a few school systems in neighboring counties remain closed today.

In a statement to media, Bulloch County Emergency Management Director Ted Wynn observed that temperatures had remained slightly above freezing throughout Tuesday night. So, despite sleet or freezing rain earlier, ice only began to accumulate after the surface temperature began dropping into the 20s around 6 a.m.

“We made the decision to close roads for most of the morning, which allowed law enforcement to assist transportation in treating these bridges with sand,” Wynn wrote.

With that done, the roads were reopened, but he added that motorists should continue to exercise caution.

Sheriff’s deputies and transportation personnel continued checking bridges and overpasses into Wednesday night, and Wynn said county road crews would apply more sand as needed.

The county’s Emergency Operations Center, which had been staffed all night, also shut down at noon. But Wynn returned later and talked to school and university officials who were making their decisions about reopening.

In an interview, Wynn said he had spoken to National Weather Service officials in Charleston, S.C., and heard a forecast for a dry Wednesday night, although with temperatures falling into the low 20s to upper teens.

“I understood that things will probably kick back into normal mode (today), and we feel pretty confident that our roads are going to be fine in the morning,” he said.

Limited effects
The storm front passed with very limited effects in Bulloch County. At the sheriff’s office, Chief Deputy Jared Akins had heard of no weather-related wrecks and only a couple of accidents handled by the Georgia State Patrol, which he thought had other causes.

“We’ve been actually pretty lucky on that,” Akins said. “We haven’t had anything other than just icing on bridges.”

The sheriff’s office had two shifts working Tuesday night to check roads and bridges, and the only problems were those the road department was able to correct, he added.

Most people heeded advice to stay off the roads.

“That’s a big help when people just will stay at home and not test the roads out,” Akins said. “It’s a lot easier on us.”

An operator at the Georgia State Patrol post also said there had been no weather-related crashes.

Excelsior Electric Membership Corporation, which serves rural areas of Bulloch and surrounding counties, reported 31 storm-related outages, with the average outage lasting 90 minutes. These were mainly in western Bulloch County and in the Twin City and Stillmore areas of Emanuel County, said Greg Proctor, Excelsior EMC’s member services manager.

“The outages were caused mainly by ice-laden trees and limbs that fell into the power lines,” explained a statement he emailed.

Georgia Power’s online outage map showed 24 outages statewide with 515 affected customers as of 11 a.m. Most of these outages were in metro Atlanta and areas near Columbus. The map showed three outages around Savannah, affecting about 25 customers total. The automated map shows only current outages, not accumulated ones, and there are almost always some isolated outages somewhere in the state.

But there were no Bulloch County outages on the map at 11 a.m. or after 1 p.m., when Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft said the storm had produced scattered outages across the state.

“Really we have not had many at all,” Kraft said. “We’re talking in the whole state it was in the thousands of people who had even experienced an outage…. Right now, we only have 127 customers out in the whole state and none in Bulloch County, for instance.”

Evans County schools and Jenkins County remain closed today but will reopen Friday. Bryan County schools also continued their closure through today. Screven County schools will resume classes today.
Ogeechee Tech, which canceled classes through today, will resume its normal schedule Monday.

Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9454.

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