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Winter weather at home and on the road: What you should know

Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 5:25 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 14, 2022 at 12:21 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - With forecasts calling for a possible winter storm this weekend, public agencies are preparing in Georgia and South Carolina — and they want you to be ready, too.

The Georgia Department of Transportation said it’s actively preparing and coordinating brine operations, equipment and materials readiness and staffing plans by treating thousands of miles of interstates and state routes across north Georgia.

“We are monitoring the storm closely and adjusting response plans as needed,” said Georgia Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry.

Across the Savannah River, the South Carolina Department of Transportation says it will use all available resources to ensure motorists are as safe as possible.

“Rest assured that SCDOT is preparing for a worst-case scenario and will begin pre-treating highways,” South Carolina Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall said.

In Georgia, brine treatments began Friday morning and continue through Saturday and into Sunday in preparation of potential freezing rain, ice, sleet and snow.

Crews will prioritize treating interstates, state routes, bridges and overpasses.

During the initial phase prior to the weather system’s arrival, Georgia DOT crews will apply brine solution to interstates, state routes, bridges, and overpasses.

Crews will continue 12-hour shifts into Saturday evening.

Crews will transition Saturday to salt/rock application and continue deployments as conditions require into Sunday and Monday.

Crews plan to work along and north of the Interstate 20 corridor from Covington to Augusta.

Brine will be deployed as far south as State Highway 540 based on current weather reports subject to change.

In South Carolina, crews follow a designated plan in each county. Interstates are the first priority, followed by primary routes and areas near medical facilities and emergency shelters.

Employees will work 12-hour shifts for pre-emptive ice treatments, snow plowing, and spreading salt and other materials to achieve safer, improved road conditions.

SCDOT workers in high-probability areas will shift to 24-hour operations throughout the duration of the storm, and winter storm operations will continue in impacted counties until roads are clear.

In both states, motorists are urged to avoid travel during winter weather.

If you must travel, use extreme caution, reduce speeds and stay clear of road crews performing clearing and de-icing operations. The treatment trucks can only travel 40 mph, so drivers are urged to stay back a safe distance.

Approach bridges and overpasses with extreme caution as they will accumulate ice first.

And be aware of black ice that can form on roads and bridges at night from melting snow.

The South Carolina Highway Patrol urges motorists to check the weather forecast frequently and stay informed before and while traveling because conditions can deteriorate rapidly. Troopers will be monitoring the roadways for hazardous road conditions during weather events and working with partners to respond as quickly as possible.

“It is critical that motorists take this storm system very seriously and stay off the roads through the end of the event to give our crews the space needed to work,” McMurry said.

What you can do

The Augusta Fire Department and Emergency Management Agency and South Carolina Emergency Management Division offer this cold-weather advice:

  • Plan on being home and remaining there by late Saturday evening through Sunday.
  • If you must go out, give yourself extra time and drive at a safer and slower speed. During winter storm weather, it is best to stay off the roads for unnecessary travel. If you must travel, ensure your vehicle is in good condition. Check the fluids, battery, and tires. Ensure that your phone is charged and you have extra blankets and snacks in case of delays. Call 911 for life-threatening emergencies only.
  • Keep space heaters at least three feet from anything flammable, plug them directly into an outlet or UL-certified power strip, and make sure they have an auto-shutoff if they tip over. Never use your oven to heat your home.
  • Keep alternative heating sources prepared. If you have a fireplace, store a good supply of dry, seasoned wood. Keep fire extinguishers on hand, and make sure your family knows how to use them. Properly vent kerosene heaters to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Also, do not burn charcoal indoors. Carbon monoxide poisoning can result from charcoal fumes indoors.
  • Have three days of supplies at home. Make sure you have flashlights, blankets, and any non-perishable foods and water.
  • Be sure not to use candles. These can be a fire hazard.
  • Use caution when around generators. Make sure you are following all the correct precautions when using them.
  • Remember to keep a full charge on your cell phone and mobile devices so they can be used during an emergency.
  • If you lose power, know how to report the outage to your utility company and have alternate, safe means of staying warm.
  • Monitor local media for information about warming shelters opened by local organizations.
  • Freezing temperatures can burst water pipes in homes without heat or proper insulation. Wrap exposed pipes or take other measures to insulate them from the cold.
  • Never operate a portable generator indoors.
  • Keep fresh batteries on hand to use with flashlights and NOAA tone-alert weather radios.
  • Provide some options for outdoor pets and domestic animals to stay warm and to have access to food and water.
  • Check on anyone who may need extra help during winter weather.

“The best thing people can do is to start preparing today for a day of potentially hazardous conditions,” Augusta Fire Chief/EMA Director Antonio Burden said.

From electric utilities

Georgia Power says it’s is prepared to respond to outages safely and as quickly as weather conditions allow. The company is continuously monitoring changing weather and storm teams are ready to respond to customer outages caused by the winter weather.

Georgia Power reminds customers to be prepared. It’s important to know the risks associated with winter weather. Resources on GeorgiaPower.com/WinterPrep can help customers stay prepared.

Georgia Power offered these tools customers can use to prepare for winter weather and stay informed:.

  • Outage and storm center: Available at www.georgiapower.com/storm, customers can visit this site to sign up for Outage Alerts, report and check the status of outages, and access useful safety tips and information. Customers can report and check the status of an outage 24 hours a day by contacting Georgia Power at 888-891-0938.
  • Outage alerts: On the site, you can subscribe to the free Georgia Power Outage Alert service to receive personalized notifications and updates via text message.
  • Outage map: Housed within the Outage and Storm Center, Georgia Power’s interactive outage map provides near real-time information, allowing users to see where outages are occurring across the state and track estimated restoration times.
  • Georgia Power mobile app: Download the Georgia Power mobile app for Apple and Android devices to access storm and outage information on the go.
  • @GeorgiaPower on Twitter: Follow @GeorgiaPower on Twitter for storm tips, outage updates, customer service and more.

Also bracing for the storm are electric membership cooperatives in Georgia, like Jefferson Energy, which serves much of the CSRA.

Representatives say they are closely monitoring weather conditions and have a variety of contingency plans in place to address problems associated with snow accumulation and ice forming on tree limbs and power lines.

The co-ops have employees and contract crews preparing trucks with emergency equipment and necessary materials. Additionally, the electric cooperatives, which could be hardest hit, have called upon other EMCs to provide help and support, should it be required.

The co-ops are stocked with poles, wire, connectors, transformers and other supplies frequently used in the restoration process. Vendors have been contacted to be on standby in case additional materials are needed.

Employees are on a heightened state of readiness and prepared to react immediately to any power outages.

Customers should contact their local electric provider to report any power outages and can obtain storm updates through their local co-op’s communications channels.

In South Carolina, co-ops are bringing in extra help ahead of the storm.

Eighteen lineworkers from three Louisiana electric cooperatives will arrive in the Palmetto State on Saturday. The crews are from Beauregard Electric Cooperative, Dixie Electric Cooperative and Jeff Davis Electric Cooperative. These crews will assist Laurens Electric Cooperative with any power outages caused by the winter storm.

Three lineworkers from Escambia River Electric Cooperative in Florida will arrive on Saturday to assist Broad River Electric Cooperative in Gaffney.

“Co-ops have each other’s backs,” said Peggy Dantzler, vice president of loss control and training for the state association of electric cooperatives. “We send crews to help others in their time of need, and they gladly return the favor.”

Dominion Energy also has been looking closely at the forecast and is preparing for widespread power outages if the ice storm is bad.

“We are preparing for any possibility. Our crews are taking steps now in case ice hits on Sunday. A quarter inch could bring down power lines,” Dominion Energy’s Matt Long said.

Long says Dominion plans to have all hands on deck and will call in crews from other states if needed.

“As the need arises, they’ll call for support. We have an agreement. There are other utilities to release crews to us once that need arises,” Long said.

Outages can be reported on the Dominion Energy app, and if power lines are down, officials ask to alert Dominion Energy instead of trying to resolve the issue personally.

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