Newton County prepares for ice storm

COVINGTON – With another wintry ice storm forecast to arrive today, the Covington-Newton County Emergency Management Agency met with public safety agencies on Monday to discuss a weather action plan.

Deputy City Manager Billy Bouchillon said the city of Covington is supplied with sand and salt in preparation for the wintry mix, which could continue to bring freezing rain and/or snow through Thursday morning.

“The problem with ice is the possibility for long-term power outages. When the trees start breaking it can cause power lines to fall,” Bouchillon said.

Chairman Keith Ellis agreed, noting the accumulation of ice puts more residents at risk.

“Since this time the storm appears it will be bringing more ice, that may make it a little harder to clear the roads,” Ellis said. “We’ll be working as soon as any sign of ice to pre-treat the roads. We’re warning people to get food and whatever supplies they need now because there’s a higher chance for power outages.”

Covington Police Department Capt. Ken Malcom said the public’s cooperation during the winter storm at the end of January was helpful in keeping roads clear and police officers free to respond to emergencies.

“The citizens of Covington and Newton County did an excellent job heeding the warnings by forecasters and police to stay off the roads, and because of that we were available for more serious calls,” he said.

With a forecast of more serious ice this time around, Malcom once again asked the public to be mindful of the potential for dangerous road conditions.

“The problem this time is that the forecast calls for ice and that is much more difficult for anybody to drive in, even public safety,” he said. “We will put snow chains on our cars so we will be able to reach people as we need and will have added personnel so we can get to calls for service quickly.”

Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown said the Newton County Sheriff’s Office will respond to stranded motorists as it did a couple of weeks ago. In addition, deputies will be using four-wheel drive vehicles during the inclement weather so they will be able to assist health care workers needing help getting to work.

In addition, all Newton County elementary schools have been identified as public shelters, he said.

Road closure updates will be available on the Newton County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page.

Social media is also how the city of Conyers plans to keep the public updated on any road closures, said Public Relations and Tourism Director Jennifer Edwards. She said both the city’s and the Conyers Police Department’s Twitter and Facebook pages were effective in communicating with the public during last month’s storm.

“We are already making plans for preparing the roads if we get ice and snow,” she said Monday. “Our goal will be to take care of the main roads first and move out to the secondary roads.”

Newton County re-stocked it’s supplies to pre-treat the roads quickly after the late January snow storm that wrecked havoc in metro Atlanta. Ellis said the county is prepared with 30 tons of salt, 150 tons of sand/gravel mix and 3,300 pounds of ice melt (calcium chloride).

“We will keep the main roads cleared and assist state roads only if the DOT asks,” Ellis said. “Our goal this time is to be more consistent in our communication to update our citizens on closures and other information as needed.”

According to the National Weather Service, the area will begin to see minor impacts from the rain that will affect bridges and overpasses which ice before roadways. The rain and sleet were predicted to move into the area early morning Tuesday. Temperatures will continue to fall through the night and can cause icing on roadways.

NWS expects the weather to worsen on Wednesday morning. This system includes snow/sleet less than a half inch that will continue to fall until around 3 p.m. Temperatures are not expected to rise above freezing and the county anticipates roads to be unpassable until noon on Thursday.

The Newton County Sheriff’s Office along with Covington-Newton County EMA, Newton County Fire Services and Newton Medical Emergency Medical Services recommend the following advice:

• Do not travel unless absolutely necessary. If involved in an accident, one may have to abandon the vehicle, due to towing and recovery services not being able to retrieve it. Citizens will be liable for any cost associated in the retrieval of the vehicle. If residents must travel, have non-perishable food items in the car along with plenty of drinking water for all occupants. Be sure to have some additional warm clothing.

• Stay home. Most businesses will be closed on Wednesday through Thursday.

• Stock up on food items before the storm arrives.

• If oxygen dependent, make sure to have enough bottled oxygen to sustain this weather event. Citizens may experience a power outage that will not support a home oxygen device.

• Be sure to have necessary medications to make it through this event.

• Make sure you have plenty of drinking water; one gallon per person, per day is recommended; and

• Check on neighbors.