Macon and Bibb County officials met late Wednesday afternoon to review plans for possible severe winter weather, but they expect the impact will be mild compared to the big snow of 1973 or even the ice storm that knocked out power in 2005.
Given the expectation for precipitation to start in the evening, interim Emergency Management Agency Director LaTravius Smith said most residents will be able to go to work as usual and should be fine as long as they stay home after work. She voiced a greater concern for the impact of freezing temperatures late today and overnight because the excess moisture in the ground will create problems with ice.
Macon Public Works Director Richard Powell said there is an adequate supply of salt and sand and that his road crews are ready for 12-hour shifts to keep bridges and roads safe.
Chief Deputy David Davis of the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office reported similar preparations in the county and said inmate crews will be prepared to cut trees and clear roads, starting in the unincorporated area and moving to the city if necessary.
Macon Police Chief Burns and Davis said four-wheel-drive vehicles are being readied and they have made contact with dealerships for backup. The 48th Infantry Brigade has offered use of some of its vehicles, Smith said, should the conditions require it.
Another early meeting with the National Weather Service will provide a clearer picture.
In the event weather creates power outages or displaces people, the EMA has secured a number of emergency shelters to open with the help of the American Red Cross.
Satisfied with preparations for severe weather and the forecast for relatively mild weather, Mayor Robert Reichert said he sees no need to close the city’s nonessential functions.
“We’re planning on being open for business,” he said.
The Bibb County school system is applying caution to any decision to close schools either today or Friday. To give parents adequate time to make alternative plans, they have suspended after-school programs and Supplement Education Services tutoring this afternoon.
With the potential of an extended weekend, school officials are exploring ways to help students who depend on the hot meal they receive at school.
“This is why we don’t make the call too early,” school system spokesman Chris Floore said. “We recognize the impact on our students.”
When that decision is made, the announcement will be sent to all media outlets, posted on the system’s Web site, posted on Cox Cable channel 17 and calls made via the system’s extensive phone database.
In Houston County, EMA Director Jimmy Williams said no significant weather problems are expected but public works crews, public safety officers and others are prepared just in case.
Cold temperatures, snow flurries and about a 10th of an inch of rain are in the forecast after sunset today, which could potentially create ice patches on roads, Williams said. Temperatures are expected to dip into the low 20s after sunset, he said.
Public work crews have plenty of salt and sand on hand, Williams said.
As of Wednesday, Houston County school officials had no plans to close schools Friday morning but will monitor weather conditions, as icy roads could make travel to and from schools dangerous. If the schools were to close, parents would be notified by phone, said Beth McLaughlin, director of community and school affairs.
Peach County Emergency Director Jeff Doles noted that the best information about the weather will come late this afternoon and evening with no extraordinary measures yet being taken to prepare for potential bad weather.
In Peach County, there were no plans to close the schools Friday in anticipation of the wintry weather, but community/parent liaison Sara Mason advised parents to pay attention to local media for updates.
Telegraph staff writers Becky Purser and Andrea Castillo contributed to this report.
To contact writer Chris Horne, call 256-4494.