Nearly 50 power trucks from states such as Alabama, North Carolina and Indiana amass at a staging area at the Atlanta Motor Speedway Tuesday afternoon. (Photo by Rachel Shirey)
HAMPTON — As a second winter storm threatens to dump as much as an inch of ice on the south metro Atlanta area, Georgia Power says it is taking proactive measures to ensure the safety of citizens.
Nearly 50 power trucks from Alabama, North Carolina and Indiana are amassed at a staging area at the Atlanta Motor Speedway Tuesday afternoon. And more are expected.
Atlanta Motor Speedway is serving as one of the largest staging points for more than 200 Georgia Power service vehicles in advance of a forecasted winter storm system expected to have a very significant impact on the area.
“With the forecasted winter weather approaching, we are very pleased that we are able to serve as a staging point for emergency crews that will assist Georgians during the inclement weather period in our area,” Atlanta Motor Speedway President and GM Ed Clark said.
Metro Atlanta were originally expected to get hit twice by storm systems Tuesday with rain falling early in the day, and a second storm that mixed rain, sleet and some snow expected to come through later in the day. Overnight temperatures were expected to fall below freezing.
However, Clayton County fire Chief Landry Merkison told county officials during a conference webinar Tuesday afternoon that the National Weather Service was now classifying the events as one large storm.
Based on predictions from the weather service, three-quarters of an inch of ice is expected in Henry County, but Merkison said there is "at least a certainty of a quarter of an inch of ice" will form in the Southern Crescent.
Merkison said rain is expected to begin moving into the area after 8 p.m. Tuesday, and a mixture of freezing rain and sleet is expected to begin falling between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. At around 7 a.m., Wednesday, that is expected to be solely freezing rain whilch will fall all day and into the evening. Low temperatures in low-to-mid-30s is expected to create black ice Wednesday, and the temperatures will be in the high 20s early Thursday, said Merkison.
While drivers may recall the ice that made driving difficult during Leon, officials are warning residents to prepare for the storm to bring possible power failures as well this time. That is a major issue Merkison and Georgia Power Storm Center Manager Aaron Strickland said the area will likely face today and tomorrow.
"Bridges and overpasses will go first, and then the power lines and trees will follow," Merkison told county leaders.
During a press conference streamed live online from the governor’s office Monday, Strickland said the utility company opened its storm center Monday morning to begin organizing its response to the ice threat. Additional power crews from as far away as Michigan and Pennsylvania have been brought in to boost manpower, he said.
“Ice is probably one of the worst events we face and when you’re talking about the amount of ice that we’re looking at, it’s catastrophic,” said Strickland. “What will happen is the ice will build up on trees, the trees will come down and take down the power lines. It’s an event we’re extremely fearful of, but we’re preparing and bringing in outside help.”
Merkison said the problem is that greater accumulations of ice make power lines more susceptible to breaking. That’s because as ice forms on the power lines, it adds extra weight and puts additional strain on the lines.
“When you get a quarter of an inch of ice on the power lines and tree limbs, they start to fall,” said Merkison.
During their webinar Tuesday, Clayton County officials discussed possible facilities that have generators and can be used as emergency shelters if necessary.