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 FRONT PAGE - JANUARY 26, 2000 - COMMERCE, GA

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Winter Landscape

What started out with beautiful, big snowflakes early Saturday afternoon, turned into the first ice storm of the season as snow turned to sleet, then sleet to rain, which froze on trees, breaking limbs and snapping tree trunks. But while counties to the north, west and south were hard hit, eastern Jackson County escaped with relatively little damage.


WINTER WEATHER

Most Of Jackson Escapes Wrath Of Season's First Winter Storm
By ANGELA GARY

Power outages were reported across Jackson County early this week when the first ice storm of the season hit North Georgia.
The Jackson County School System canceled its classes for Monday due to the power outages and weather conditions.
Temperatures dipped down below 30 with a mixture of rain and ice falling Saturday and Sunday across the county. When the rain froze on the trees, limbs and entire trees fell across roads and utility lines throughout the county.
Jackson County road department crews worked Saturday and Sunday to put out sand and salt and to remove trees and limbs from the roads. The crews first went out around 2 p.m. Saturday and worked through Sunday night.
"We were in pretty good shape just before daybreak on Sunday as far as our roads go," said road department superintendent Sam McClure. "We had worked on them all night and then the ice started freezing on the trees, and about daylight Sunday, we had trees start to fall and we had to call everyone in again."
McClure said the crew and the volunteer firemen who assisted them did a good job during the storm.
"Everyone really did a good job," he said. "I'm really proud of them. We worked 15 to 20 hours each over Saturday and Sunday ... We had a lot of help from the local fire departments. They pitched in and we certainly appreciate it."
McClure said all of the roads were clear by Monday and most of the debris had been removed.
Employees with the Georgia Department of Transportation worked 56 hours over the weekend clearing the state routes and interstates. Traffic signal technicians also worked to ensure that power was restored to traffic signals and that they were operating correctly.
"It is a thankless job to drive a dump truck at 3 o'clock in the morning on Hwy. 441 but our people did it and did it well," DOT commissioner Wayne Shackelford said. "I am proud of the guys who cut the trees and worked to remove fallen trees with snow plows."
DOT crews also placed salt and sand on state routes and interstates, starting Saturday afternoon.
"We used over 4,000 tons of salt and stone this weekend," said district one maintenance engineer Darrell Pyeatt. "Our plan is to reload so we can be ready if winter weather strikes again."
The local and state road efforts paid off. By Sunday morning, most local roads were free of ice, except on bridges and shaded sections.
911 CALLS INCREASE
911 director David Murphy said calls increased to his department over the weekend but most were not emergencies. The department received 372 calls Friday, which is average, but 527 calls Saturday and 820 Sunday.
"Most of these calls were people asking about road conditions and power outages," Murphy said. "People wanted us to notify the power companies ... What people don't realize is that we don't have any magic solutions or magic numbers to call the power companies and let them know services are out."
Murphy said the department received more wreck calls than usual over the weekend, especially Saturday night, but none were serious.
"We didn't even transport anyone from any of the accidents that we did have," he said. "Most of them were people who were sliding off of the road. No one was really injured."
Meanwhile, meteorologists are already talking about the possibility of more winter weather Thursday, Friday and Saturday as a strong cold storm system moves east.


Commerce Area Suffers Little
People in the east side of the Jackson County must have wondered Sunday morning about all the fuss over "Ice Storm 2000" as one Atlanta TV station dubbed it.
Roads were largely ice-free, very few trees were down, and power outage were sparse, particularly in Commerce. The entire east side of the county appeared to have missed the brunt of a storm that devastated Barrow, Banks, Athens-Clarke and even Oconee and Oglethorpe counties to the south.
Roads were largely clear by early Sunday in Nicholson, Commerce and Maysville, although an occasional fallen tree or low-hanging limb warranted driving caution. Jackson EMC and Georgia Power had to deal with power outages, but not nearly as many as in other areas of the northern half of the state.
"I think our consistent limb trimming or right of way trimming really paid off this weekend," said Commerce city manager Clarence Bryant. He noted that while the city's electric crew worked most of the day Sunday, there were only sporadic outages affecting two or three homes at a time.
Bryant said he was in Atlanta Sunday for the Georgia Municipal Association's Mayors' Day programs, and was not of the opinion that icing was worse in that area than in Commerce.
"It looked to me like we had as much or more ice," he said.
The damage was so severe elsewhere that Gov. Roy Barnes declared 20 counties disaster areas.
By Tuesday morning, there were still some 14,000 Georgians without power. In West Jackson, some people were without electricity for a few hours, while others didn't get their power restored until Monday morning. Cable television had not been fully restored as of Tuesday morning.


LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Nicholson To Resume Zoning Discussion Some Time In February
NICHOLSON -- The third "work session" of the Nicholson City Council on its proposed zoning ordinance will not take place until after the next regular council meeting, according to City Clerk Dana Wilbanks.
The council met the past two Tuesday nights, Feb. 11 and Feb. 18, to begin a review of what may be the city's first zoning ordinance ever.
"We wanted to wait until after our regular council meeting," said Mrs. Wilbanks, when asked about the timing for the third work session.
The first two have consisted of general discussion not just among the city council members, but also between the six to eight citizens attending and the council. Those discussions appeared to frustrate Mayor Steve Wilbanks, who says the floor will not be open to the public at the next work session.
"I will not open the floor. I want the council to get this thing going," Wilbanks stated Jan. 18. "If we're mixing heads, we can't get nothing going, because we're always bickering."
The focus of the sometimes-lively discussion has largely been on how to deal with mobile homes. Some of the council and most of the public would like to limit mobile home subdivisions, but over the first two work sessions, all council members have come to the conclusion that mobile homes will always be part of the housing mix in the community.
Given that, the next question is to decide whether to create a separate zone for mobile homes and one for houses or to lump them all together as the draft of the zoning ordinance does. The council appears to be leaning toward having two or more residential zoning classes.
Determining the zoning classes will be a key decision. Once that is done, Lee Carmen, zoning official of the Northeast Georgia Regional Development Center, and author of the draft ordinance, will go throughout the town and place every tract in one of the zoning districts. The map she generates will be made public, and citizens will have a chance to comment on how their property is zoned.
According to Mrs. Wilbanks, the city council will also discuss the possibility of enacting the county zoning ordinance, leaving the Jackson County office of Planning and Development in charge of administration and enforcement.
Yet another issue to be resolved is whether the final decision will be made by a vote of the town council or a vote of the public. That aspect has not been discussed.
It is a reminder that zoning is far from a sure thing this year in Nicholson. The community has twice before gone through the trouble of creating an ordinance, only to see the public vote it down. Nicholson is the only Jackson County community without zoning. One result of that has been the proliferation of mobile home developments, which led Nicholson resident Scherry Jackson to lead a citizen initiative calling for the town to enact zoning.



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