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FRONT PAGE - JANUARY 26, 2000 - HOMER, GA

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CLEARING THE WAY

Banks County firemen worked countless hours clearing the roadways during the ice storm. Above, Tommy Herbert and Dale Herbert, District 2, clear a limb off of Hwy. 51.
Photo by Sherry Lewis


WINTER WEATHER

Ice storm blankets county
Sixty percent of residents without power
BY SHERRY LEWIS
Banks County was declared to be in a "state of emergency" following the ice storm that left thousands without power earlier this week. The county will now be eligible to receive state funds for clean-up.
Forty members of the Banks County fire department, made up of mostly volunteers, and the road department worked day and night to clear the roadways for motorists. It was the trees in the roads that first knocked down power, telephone and cable lines, causing a major inconvenience to countians.
"We had 80 roads with power outs or tree limbs on the lines," said Lisa McClure, Banks County 911 and Emergency Management director.
Sunday morning, 60 to 70 percent of county residents were left without power, according to McClure. With employees from Jackson Electric Membership Corp. and Georgia Power working almost nonstop, that number had been decreased to 30 percent by Monday morning.
The number of people impacted was evident from the number of 911 calls coming into the center. On an average Sunday, McClure and her staff handle 150 to 300 calls, she said. This Sunday, 600 calls came into the center.
"The phones never ceased ringing," she said. "Some say they tried to get our seven digit numbers and they were busy. Some then picked up the phone and dialed 911."
McClure said the non-emergency calls did not cause a major problem.
"They just asked what they could do, where they could go or when was the power going to come back on," she said. "People seemed to get in a worse panic as the evening neared (on Sunday)."
Banks County set up an Emergency Operation Center at the 911 center. As calls came in to 911, they were given to the emergency center which coordinated the workers, according to board of commissioners chairman James Dumas.
Greg Wells, Joe Topia, Ben Whisnant, Doug O'Neal and Jessica Hoist assisted McClure and Dumas in the command post.
One of McClure's concerns was the special needs people in the community, such as people on oxygen or those who are bedridden. There was a nurse and a member of public health on standby if any citizen needed their assistance, McClure continued. However, McClure said she quickly found out community members were lending a helping hand to each other.
"I have great admiration to the volunteers who got out there with chain saws and assisted their neighbor," she said. "One of the things I saw was a neighbor helping a neighbor."
On Monday, Banks County crews were still hard at work to get additional trees and debris cleared from the roadway. The Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) sent crews to Banks County to assist with the clean-up. GEMA also sent 40 sleeping bags and cots so members of the fire and rescue departments could stay at the stations during the clean-up.
BOC members Pat Westmoreland and Ernest Rogers, building inspector Tony Vento and Dumas divided the county up into five quadrants on Monday and Tuesday to assess the roads to find out where assistance was needed.
SHELTER SET UP
With such a vast power outage on Sunday, the American Red Cross set up a shelter at the Banks County Middle School Sunday afternoon. When no one had gone to the shelter to spend the night by 10 p.m., it was closed, according to McClure.
"The board of education welcomed the use of the school during the recent ice storm," stated Deborah White, interim superintendent. "It was an opportunity for all the community agencies, the schools, commissioners, fire department, 911 center and the many volunteers to cooperatively service Banks County citizens."
More than 250 emergency service personnel and members of the community without power were fed at the shelter.
"It was truly inspiring to see the smiling faces of volunteers who had been working for more than 12 hours without a break come through the cafeteria line," White said. "Their dedication was evident from their willingness to immediately return to the task of cleaning roads and securing the safety of others. I am very glad that the school system could provide support for their efforts."
DEPUTIES AT WORK
Banks County deputies worked several weather-related vehicle accidents Saturday afternoon.
"There were people stranded, sliding in ditches, off the roadway and everywhere," explained Sheriff Charles Chapman.
There were extra deputies on duty Saturday afternoon and Sunday.
"We had officers on duty to encounter emergency situations as they arose," Chapman continued.
On Sunday, the deputies spent the morning directing traffic around the trees and power lines in the roadway.
Chapman was out during the storm and saw the hard work of the firemen.
"The firemen need to be commended," he said. "They got out there and gave their all for the citizens of Banks County."
The operations following the ice storm were a success, Dumas said.
"It was a smooth operation and we made adjustments as we went along," said Dumas.
He, too, pointed out the efforts of the county employees and volunteers.
"I appreciate the sacrifice of the volunteer fire fighters, the road department and their families during the storm," Dumas said.
Schools were also closed Monday and Tuesday due to the ice storm.


EDUCATION

Susan Oliver named Banks County 'Teacher of the Year'
Strives to 'change the world' through her work with students
BY SHERRY LEWIS

SUSAN OLIVER

The Banks County systemwide "Teacher of the Year" believes her job provides her with the opportunity to change the world.
"I feel truly blessed to arise every morning and do something I love,"` Susan Oliver said. "I can change the world by preparing the leaders of tomorrow by helping them contribute to society and make better decisions. The most reluctant learner could grow up and make the world a better place if given the opportunity."
While she thrives on impacting the lives of students, she has also made an impact on faculty members at Banks County High School. After teaching just one year, she was voted "Teacher of the Year" by her peers at BCHS. That honor was followed by an announcement last week that she had been named systemwide "Teacher of the Year" and will represent the system at the state level.
One of the things that makes Oliver's job rewarding is the administration and students at the high school.
"I have so much support from the administration at the high school and the student body is just great," she said. "Those two factors make teaching at BCHS so rewarding."
Oliver did not enter the professional world of education right after high school or college but entered the business world. She said her work there helped her gain vast experience working with people that provided a strong foundation for working with students, parents, teachers and administrators. During that time, she was also impacting the lives of children by volunteering in school, sports and church activities while her children were growing up. She has served as a room mother, parent-teacher organization officer and team mom for her son's baseball, basketball, soccer and football teams.
It was at that time she discovered she wanted to teach.
"I came to understand that in each student lies an innate love of learning," she said. "Although this light may not shine brightly or may exist only as a flicker because of past failure, it is still perceivable. I strive to be the spark that empowers students to find their love of learning."
Once recognized, students can use their own special gifts and strengths to accomplish their goals, whether in World History class or in life, she explained.
"Therefore, my greatest accomplishments in education are not awards or accolades, but lie in the realm of everyday classroom success," she said. "My greatest contributions are helping students rediscover their interest in learning that has diminished because they are unable to connect their own knowledge base to academia."
Oliver said she creates a classroom environment that is conducive to learning.
"I create a classroom where students can feel encouraged and confident enough to take risks to grow academically," she said. "Questions are welcomed and never ridiculed. I encourage students in my classroom to take control of their own learning. I strive to remove barriers that might impede learning, such as cultural issues or fear of failing."
Oliver obtained an associate degree in horticulture from Gwinnett Technical Institute before completing her undergraduate teaching degree in social sciences from Regent's College in 1997. She received a master's degree from Piedmont College in 1998.
Oliver said she is a lifelong learner and models this quality to her students. She has taken classes on discipline to increase her options and creativity for working with challenging students. She was chosen to participate in Georgia-In Tech training. This has provided her with the skills necessary to enhance lesson plans with technology and provide high quality skills to students in order for them to keep pace in a constantly changing and competitive world, she explained. She was also nominated for the Radio Shack Outstanding Teacher Award by principal Jan Bertrang.
Oliver is also co-sponsor of the BCHS-Lifesavers, a peer leader organization, serves on the Hugh O'Brien Leadership selection committee, the Governor's Honors selection committee and the Ring Committee.
Oliver and her husband, Eddie, have two children, Chip, 21, and Ross, 15. She was born and raised in Duluth and has lived in Banks County for eight years. She is a member of Trinity United Methodist Church.



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