The prospect of snow falling and sticking today in places as far south as Cordele and beyond had folks wondering if the winter white stuff might actually make a rare blanket statement in locales well below Georgia’s Interstate 16-U.S. 80 waistline.
There was even a snowball’s chance in Rochelle — a 90-percent chance, in fact, for the Wilcox County burg — as the wintry window was flung open for a stretch of the state that hardly ever sees more than a stray flurry.
In Rochelle and on over toward Interstate 75, in Crisp County, Cordele and its neighbors stand to get up to 3 inches of snow, perhaps a tad more in spots, if the approaching weather system blows through accordingly.
“It sounds crazy,” Crisp Sheriff Donnie Haralson said. “If it comes out the way they’re talking about it, it is gonna be crazy.”
He said the last significant snowfall he could recall there came in March 1993.
“It usually peters out right before it gets to us,” Haralson said.
However, with precipitation streaming in from the southwest, regions below Macon stand to catch the brunt of the brrrs.
A winter storm warning from the National Weather Service, including Taylor, Macon, Sumter, Dooly and Crisp counties, is in effect until 7 p.m. tonight.
By midmorning, the precipitation is expected to increase “in coverage and intensity and change to all snow.” Some areas may get more than 4 inches, the weather service predicted.
Some school systems across Middle Georgia, including Bibb, Monroe and Crawford, already had scheduled a winter break for today. By Thursday evening, though, other schools and school systems called off classes, including Houston, Peach, Jones, Baldwin, Twiggs and Pulaski counties, as well as Windsor, Stratford, Tattnall Square and Mount de Sales academies and First Presbyterian Day School in Macon.
As for Macon and the vicinity, expect a high temperature of about 37 degrees and a “chance of rain and snow before 1 p.m., then snow” with up to 3 inches possible, a weather service bulletin stated.
Places east of Macon were in line for at least a dusting, but the chance diminished on over toward Statesboro, where “little or no” accumulation was expected, the weather service noted.
At Robins Air Force Base, officials planned to monitor roads and the runway for potentially icy conditions, but they weren’t taking any out-of-the-ordinary measures for the wintry weather, which could last into the night and early Saturday.
“Since it snows so infrequently in Middle Georgia, Robins doesn’t have dedicated snow removal equipment like plows or snow blowers,” Ed Drohan, a base spokesman, said in an e-mail. “For smaller amounts, we can use street sweepers to remove snow.”
Airfield workers operate around the clock, Drohan noted, and they will be checking the runway and taxiways as soon as snow begins to fall. “If they determine that an aircraft’s braking ability would be hindered, they’ll close the runway,” he said.
Jimmy Williams, director of the Houston County Emergency Management Agency, said he expects about an inch of snow to accumulate on grassy areas, but he believes the roads will remain passable.
Ground temperatures should be high enough to keep roads clear, he said.
Jeff Doles, director of the Peach EMA, echoed that sentiment.
“We’re not expecting any problems,” he said.
Motorists should exercise caution, especially on bridges and other areas where there could be icing, Williams said.
Emergency officials and public works crews across the midstate are on standby should the weather system throw a curve.
Thursday afternoon at the Huddle House in Vienna, just down East Union Street from the Georgia State Cotton Museum, manager Rufus Carpenter wasn’t all that enthused about white fluff of the frozen kind.
“I will be upset if snow comes through here,” Carpenter said. “I’m from Florida. I want south Georgia (weather). I don’t want north Georgia.”
A Huddle House regular named Dave, who didn’t want his last name printed, said, “I don’t think it’s gonna be that much snow. If it is, it’ll fool the hound out of me.”
Cape Jones, a Dooly County sheriff’s deputy who lives up in the Snow Spring community just west of Unadilla, said the snow-white spring sand from which the hamlet takes its name is about all the “snow” they ever get.
“I don’t know how much we’re gonna have,” he said. “The last time we had any was around 2001 or 2003. ... But in my line of work I really don’t want no bad weather.”
In Macon County, authorities met Thursday afternoon to prepare for the possible snowfall or “whatever comes,” Emergency Management Agency Director John Turner said. “We’ll just wait and see and try to get ready.”
Turner said some county roads already are closed because of the recent rain.
“We’ll try to get all the city and county equipment fueled up and on standby,” he said. “Motor-graders and possibly front-end loaders, according to just how bad it gets. ... Sand on the bridges if we need it.
“We’re just trying to keep the roads passable.”
Staff writers Becky Purser and Thomas Day contributed to this report.