Snowstorm hits
Storm causes power outages

COVINGTON - Newton County took its share of a snowstorm that moved across Georgia on Sunday.

About 2,000 city of Covington utility customers lost power, mostly due to falling trees and tree limbs, Utilities Director Bill Meecham reported. Power had been restored to most by Monday afternoon, he said, with the rest expected to be restored today.

Some crew members were on duty for 24 hours straight, he added.

Outages were spread throughout the city's service area. Locations with the largest number of people affected included the south part of the city, such as Ga. Highway 36; North Newton, including Ga. Highway 81, Flat Rock Road and Alcovy Road; and East Newton, including areas near Dearing Street and Ga. Highway 142 south of U.S. Highway 278.

"This was a rather fast-developing storm once it hit. Around mid-afternoon yesterday, we began receiving calls to report weather-related power outages. We are still working on them, although some calls are from customers who did not call earlier or businesses that were closed over the weekend," Meecham said on Monday. "We also have cases where the customer had damage to their home wiring, specifically where their wiring connects to our service lines and can't be reconnected until they have repairs made."

Other utility providers also reported widespread outages.

Snapping Shoals EMC estimated that 18,000 customers across its service area were affected. The bulk of outages occurred in the southern service areas around McDonough and Jackson Lake, Snapping Shoals Spokeswoman Leigh-Anne Burgess said.

Burgess added that crews were working Monday to restore power to about 1,000 customers.

Georgia Power spokeswoman Carol Boatwright said the Athens area had experienced the majority of outages during the storm. She said about 30,000 Georgia Power customers across the state were still without power Monday.

"We're holding at about 30,000 right now because what we're seeing (is) that when work crews get the lines back up in one area another tree will come down on them," Boatwright said. "We are calling up 900 crew members from South Georgia to help out, and we should make progress to have all the customers back on

line as the weather warms."

A total of about 60,000 Georgia Power customers were affected. Most of those outages occurred just after dark Sunday, Boatwright said.

Walton EMC reported the bulk of its outages occurred in Walton and Oconee counties, with 18,000 outages reported across its 10-county service area. By Monday morning work crews had the number of affected customers down to 2,500, said spokeswoman Heather Maynard.

Walton EMC had 12 customers in Rockdale and Newton counties without power Monday. At the peak of outages, about 100 customers in both counties were affected, Maynard said.

City of Covington Public Works Director Billy Bouchillon said crews had been working to clear up a few downed trees, but reported no major damage or problem areas.

"We're getting helped out right now by Mother Nature," Bouchillon said, noting that most of the ice was melting by early afternoon Monday.

He said crews were on standby in preparation for freezing temperatures Monday night, with trucks ready to pour sand on the roadways if needed.

"We're hoping it's going to dry up. The main roadways look like they are drying up. We're counting on citizens to have common sense and drive safely on those roads that are still wet," he said.

An office worker with Newton County Public Works said Monday afternoon that no one was available to talk with the newspaper, adding that crews that worked Sunday had gone home.

The rare March snowstorm closed schools, caused traffic accidents, canceled church services and knocked out electricity to thousands of homes throughout the state.

Parts of the state got between 1 and 7 inches of snow, said Matt Sena with the National Weather Service station in Peachtree City.

The Associated Press reported the Georgia Department of Transportation had cleared most major roadways by 11 a.m. Monday. Icy patches snarled traffic early Monday on I-20 in Rockdale, Newton and Morgan counties.

Students got an unexpected three-day weekend as at least 35 districts canceled classes, including the Newton County School System.

Sherri Viniard, director of public relations for NCSS, said officials will determine a makeup day at a later date.

Area colleges also responded to the snowy conditions. Georgia Perimeter College's Newton campus closed for the day, while it's other campuses were delayed until noon, according to the GPC Web site. Oxford College also closed it campus until noon Monday, but employees were asked to notify their supervisors by noon if they didn't feel they could make it to work safely. The campus is expected to be open today, but the inclement weather hotline number is 770-784-8400.

While southern states were recovering from the aftereffects of the snowstorm on Monday, the storm pummeled the Northeast, grounding hundreds of flights, causing spinouts on highways, delaying trains and buses and closing school for over a million children from South Carolina to Maine.

Most areas in the storm's wake expected to see at least 8 to 12 inches of accumulation.

Meanwhile, temperatures in Atlanta crept back above freezing Monday and were expected to be near 74 degrees by Friday, according to the National Weather Service.

Staff Reporter Jay Jones contributed to this story.

Staff Reporter Michelle Floyd contributed to this story.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.