Nearly a year ago, residents in DeKalb County and throughout the metro Atlanta area were hit by one of the worst winter weather events in Georgia’s history: A storm that brought about 4.5 inches of snow and ice.
During the week, as cities attempted to deal with the snow and ice, schools were cancelled, residents lost power, mail was halted and many roads closed due to safety precautions.
Using last year’s unpredictable winter as an example, residents and municipalities are preparing for the worst case scenario if another major weather event blows in.
According to the National Weather Service’s website, the temperature outlook for January and February is slated to be 45 percent above normal. A spokesperson said any city during the winter months could expect rain, freezing rain, snow and other hazardous conditions.
However, the spokesperson did not speculate whether metro Atlanta residents could expect such significant weather events as last year’s week-long ice storm.
Locally Burke Brennan, a spokesman for DeKalb County, said the county has acquired several new pieces of equipment to prepare for winter weather.
“We’re spending $452,000 on new stuff,” Brennan said. “We’re getting eight more [snow plows], and in addition to that, we’re increasing our sand-salt mix and have 400 tons of that at the ready.”
Brennan said the snow plows and spreaders aren’t independent units but devices that can be attached to trucks the county already has. He said last year, some residents thought the county needed to get as many plows as possible in case another major snow/ice storm happened.
“It’s always a balance. Last year was a 50-year event and we haven’t seen anything like that in decades. People were of the opinion that we should get 100 snow plows but that’s not practical or prudent,” Brennan said.
When there is an ice storm like the one last year, Brennan said, it cost the county millions in revenue if it lasts more than several days. Although the equipment is vital, Brennan said, shoring up the county’s procedures for such an emergency was just as important.
“We’ve also had an opportunity to re-evaluate what streets are most widely used and revisited our planning and prioritizing,” Brennan said.
Dunwoody Public Works Director Michael Smith said last year’s winter events gave the relatively new city a chance to take its experience from the past three years and develop maps for its work crews of areas that frequently ice on main roads.
Smith said the city works with a contractor to combat the winter weather, which he said was more cost effective than buying sanders and snow plows.
“Our contractor has added a second snow plow. We didn’t have any available last year but this year we’re going to have two in addition to our salt spreaders,” Smith said. “That equipment is at no cost to the city…We just pay for them as needed and basically rent them.”
In addition to snow plows, salt and sand, Smith said Dunwoody has participated in regional discussions the Georgia Department of Transportation has facilitated with cities and counties throughout the state.
City of Stone Mountain City Manager Barry Amos said he has also participated in the GDOT ice and snow preparation meetings. Amos said the city has secured the services of a contractor with snow and ice control and removal equipment who will be on call in the event of inclement weather.
On Nov. 17, GDOT announced the launch of its new inclement weather page, www.dot.ga.gov/winterweather. GDOT will also use social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter to distribute information and update the public of any severe weather situations.
“The new webpage is a great way to let the public immediately see updates on road conditions,” said chairman of the state transportation board Rudy Bowen. “I am excited to see the Department expanding its reach to different markets by increasing the use of social media.”