Predictions of freezing rain, sleet and snow for this afternoon through Wednesday prompted school cancellations and official advice that everyone should avoid driving on icy roads.
Bulloch County Schools Superintendent Charles Wilson decided Monday afternoon that schools will be closed for all students and employees both today and Wednesday. Then Georgia Southern University announced that it will be closed for classes beginning at noon today, and all day Wednesday. All public school and university sports and other extracurricular activities are also canceled.
Ogeechee Technical College has canceled classes today through Thursday, the remainder of its week.
After a conference call Monday with the National Weather Service, Bulloch County Emergency Management Director Ted Wynn said Wednesday in particular was looking like a day to avoid driving.
"They're talking more at this point in time about the accumulation of ice as opposed to snow, and of course that can create a dangerous situation as the ice is going to accumulate on exposed surfaces, and it looks like Wednesday is going to be pretty much a day not to be on the road," Wynn said.
His agency posts updates on its Facebook page, Bulloch County Public Safety/EMA.
Whether the schools and university will reopen Thursday depends on decisions to be made around 3 p.m. Wednesday, according to the organizations' statements to the media.
School system, university and college officials, along with the sheriff's and police departments, the Georgia Department of Transportation, city and county road departments, and other agencies met at the county Emergency Operations Center at 1 p.m. Monday to plan their response.
Ice on bridges is special concern. The county and the city of Statesboro will have more than 20 dump trucks ready to spread sand on bridges and overpasses, but this would only begin after officials are sure the accumulation has ended, Wynn said.
Ice storm warning
Earlier Monday, the National Weather Service had issued a winter storm watch for Bulloch and surrounding counties, effective from Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday afternoon. But the watch statement, which had mentioned 1-2 inches of snow as a possibility, was canceled late Monday afternoon and replaced by an ice storm warning.
The new warning, in effect from noon today until 5 p.m. Wednesday, predicts a half-inch accumulation of ice, with locally higher amounts near three-fourths of an inch.
"Significant ice accumulation will create dangerous driving conditions for motorists - including first responders," the National Weather Service warned in its statement. "Damage to trees, power lines and even structures is possible. Widespread power outages could produce life-threatening situations."
The Weather Service's general forecast for Statesboro included a 100 percent chance of precipitation for tonight, with ice accumulating. As of 5:55 p.m. Monday, the forecast for Wednesday said "snow likely, mainly before 11 a.m." with a 70 percent chance of precipitation.
Bulloch Academy has also canceled school for today and Wednesday.
Screven County schools are closed today and Wednesday, although teachers were to report for work 8 a.m. until noon today. Evans County schools are open today, but after-school programs are canceled, and the schools will be closed Wednesday.
In Metter, an employee at the Candler County Board of Education said schools would be open today but that a decision will be made by 2 p.m. today about school for Wednesday.
In the Jenkins County schools, students are scheduled for dismissal at noon today, with the schools to be closed Wednesday and Thursday, a staff member said.
Bryan County schools are open today but will be closed Wednesday, with a decision to be made Wednesday about Thursday.
An alert had gone out that East Georgia State College's Statesboro campus would close at noon today through Wednesday, said a public safety officer on duty at the Swainsboro main campus. A decision for the Swainsboro campus was to be made this morning, he said.
At Georgia Southern, the Dining Commons will be the only campus location open for meals after noon today.
Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport issued a statement that the airport commission was monitoring the situation. Airline websites and www.savannahairport.com would post info on cancellations and delays.
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9454.