Updated 5:33 p.m.
In a briefing before noon today, National Weather Service meteorologists warned state and local emergency management officials that the coming winter blast on Wednesday and Thursday could turn into a “catastrophic event.”
“They are saying they went back to the January 2000 event when the region had quarter- to a half-inch of ice, and this event could be worse than that,” said Penny Clack, the emergency management coordinator for Barrow County.
“We could have 3-5 inches of combined snow and ice, and we want people to get off the roads,” she said.
Winds are expected to be brisk during the storm, increasing the probability of heavy icing on trees and power lines. In the 2000 ice storm, metro Atlanta residents and businesses lost power for days.
Pat Graham, chairman of the Barrow County Board of Commissioners, at 1:18 p.m. Tuesday issued a "Declaration of Local Emergency." Gov. Nathan Deal and President Barack Obama also have issued state and federal declarations.
“This is to let people know how serious of an event this is,” Clack said. “And it opens up opportunities for the county to get additional resources from the state if we need to.”
Barrow County manager Randall Dowling closed county government offices at 3 p.m. Tuesday and they will remain closed both Wednesday and Thursday.
“Go prepare yourselves, get home,” Dowling said. “Because it’s going to get pretty ugly and stay ugly for at least 48 hours.
WINDER GARBAGE SERVICE IMPACTED
Barrow County schools also will be closed Wednesday, with all school-related activities and meetings canceled or postponed, according to an announcement Tuesday afternoon by school superintendent Wanda Creel.
"As conditions develop, we will determine when it is safe to resume school," she said.
Tuesday's meetings of the school board and BOC have been canceled. The BOC's next meeting is Feb. 25.
Winder's city government announced late Tuesday afternoon that Waste Management will not provide garbage pickup on Wednesday. Customers typically scheduled for Wednesday collections should put out their cans instead on Thursday. And customers who usually have garbage picked up on Thursdays and Fridays should follow their normal routines, though the trucks might be late or not arrive until the following day. Saturday service is anticipated for anyone not reached by Friday.
Winter Storm Pax will cover North Georgia in snow and ice over the next two days, with conditions worsening after midnight tonight due to several hours of icy precipitation.
Barrow County Sheriff Jud Smith, who participated in the weather service's briefing today, said forecasters' biggest concern is the ice and wind.
“We will have sustained winds from 10-20 miles per hour and wind gusts of 25-30 miles per hour starting at 8 a.m. Wednesday,” Smith said.
“Right now the biggest thing going against us is possible power outages,” he said. “We’ve got contingency plans for assisting homebound people.”
Accumulations of several inches of snow and up to one-half inch of ice are possible during the period. The most significant amounts of precipitation will fall Wednesday.
Georgia Department of Transportation officials are urging the public to "refrain from all but absolutely necessary driving" during the next two days.
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