Old man winter strikes again

By Michael Davis

Beth Cape knows what it's like to have to brace for cold and dangerous weather. Having lived in Northern California, she's seen her share of winter storms.

"It gets quite cold," said the 40-year-old Stockbridge resident who was loading groceries into her minivan at a supermarket Friday morning.

"I'm just getting an extra few groceries," she said. "When the electricity goes out, you end up losing your food."

As another blast of winter weather rolled in Friday, locals made preparations for sleet and freezing rain conditions.

The Georgia Department of Transportation was ramping up for what promised to be about 24 hours of freezing temperatures mixed with rain and sleet, which in Georgia, plays havoc on the roads.

"We've got to get ready, we just can't ignore it," said spokesman Bert Brantley.

As crews were coming in Friday morning, they fit trucks with winter weather equipment, including snow plows and hoppers with salt and stone mixture that can be spread on frozen roads.

"You just kind of wait for the weather and start to hit problem areas," Brantley said.

Crews were sent home until 10 p.m. Friday, when they were expected to return for 12-hour shifts.

Brantley said when the weather rolls in, clearing crews work the more dangerous spots at first, then begin regular clearing routes as conditions become more wide-spread.

Georgia Power Co., which serves 1.1 million customers in the metro Atlanta area, also had crews on standby from Valdosta and Brunswick ready to head to the Atlanta and Augusta areas should the region experience wide-spread power outages.

Georgia Power spokeswoman Carol Boatright said the utility has also requested assistance from neighboring states and has commitments from power companies as far away as Louisiana and Mississippi, whose crews should be arriving today. Assistance has also been requested from power companies in the Carolinas.

"If they're clear, they're going to be sending crews into our area," she said.

Expecting delays and congestion due to airplane deicing, Delta Air Lines began consolidating some of its regularly scheduled flights Friday, said airline spokesman Anthony Black.

"We are proactively doing that in order to reduce the amount of congestion," he said.

Delta was also waiving ticket changing fees for passengers who wanted to take flights before or after the storm was expected to hit.

Clayton College & State University in Morrow was closed Friday at 9 p.m. and was not expected to reopen until 2 p.m. Saturday. All activities were canceled, including the Governor's Honors Program testing. All Saturday continuing education classes were canceled at the university's main and north Fulton campuses.

In Henry, county road crews were prepping for the storm.

"Crews are currently loading trucks with salt and sand and will be on call throughout the night so that we will be ready when the storm hits," Public Works Director Michael Harris said Friday.

The National Weather Service in Peachtree City issued a winter storm warning for parts of north and central Georgia, including Henry and Clayton counties, which began Friday night and continues through Saturday afternoon.

Sleet and freezing rain was expected to begin falling early Saturday morning just after midnight and continue occasionally through Saturday, said staff meteorologist Gary Beeley. "The rest of (Saturday) it's going to be staying right at freezing or below," he said.

Sunday's forecast should be more seasonal. Temperatures are expected to start out in the mid-30s in the morning and eventually reach the 50s with some rain. "There will be a chance of showers but it will be all rain," Beeley said.

On the net:

National Weather Service