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Prospect of snow, ice, causes a stir in Middle Georgia

Folks from up North may giggle, but you can’t say we don’t take our snow — or mere prospect of it — seriously around here.

On Sunday afternoon, barely two hours after most churches had wrapped up morning worship, dozens of local officials were huddling to plan for a looming winter storm that, as of presstime, promised potentially havoc-wreaking conditions: overnight snow or sleet topped off by freezing rain, all amid temperatures hovering in the low 30s.

The foul-weather concoction was forecast to blow into the region at about 3 a.m. Monday, delivering the Columbus-to-Macon-to-Augusta corridor as much as an inch or two of snow or sleet that, as Sunday night wore on, was feared might, in spots, harden into up to a quarter-inch of ice.

The mix was expected to turn to rain later Monday — much earlier, however, by mid-morning, in places south of Interstate 16 and U.S. 80 as temperatures climbed well above freezing — forecasters said.

Bibb County schools and scores of others in the area are shut down for the day.

Bibb Board of Education authorities pulled the plug on classes around mid-afternoon Sunday, about an hour after sitting in on a closed-circuit National Weather Service briefing at Macon City Hall that warned of possibly treacherous travel conditions here by daybreak Monday.

“Very slick” was how senior forecaster Kent Frantz of the weather service’s Peachtree City post put it in the briefing.

“By 3 a.m.,” he said, “most of central Georgia will have precipitation.”

As to what form that wet stuff might take was still anyone’s guess. Even so, a lot of folks weren’t taking any chances on being snowed in without food.

At the Publix grocery on Tom Hill Sr. Boulevard in Macon, customers were making the customary runs on bread and milk. As well as another item.

“Ground beef has pretty much sold out. Everybody’s making chili,” customer service clerk Shirley Raleigh said Sunday evening. “People are so funny, it’s like panic. Like this gonna is gonna last for a week and it’s not.”

Earlier in the day, as a clear-blue-sky Saturday the day before had since given way to a flint-gray, overcast Sunday that saw area high temperatures in the upper 30s, Macon Mayor Robert Reichert said preparing the city for winter weather, bracing for the atmospheric unknown, can be difficult.

Predictions of snow and glazed-over roads don’t always pan out, and locals can get complacent.

With Macon situated in a spot where forecasting snow and ice can be dicey at best, the mayor said, “It does make it tough. We’re trying to err on the side of caution.”

City of Macon employees along with their Bibb County counterparts are asked not to report to work today until 11 a.m., roads permitting.

Bibb schools’ spokesman Chris Flore said a decision about whether the county’s schools would open on Tuesday would come sometime this afternoon after officials consulted with forecasters to see if roads were expected to freeze overnight tonight.

Don Druitt, Macon-Bibb County Emergency Management Agency director, said road crews were expected to sprinkle crushed rock on overpasses and other potentially icy spots around the county. He also cautioned locals to stay off the roads should conditions dictate today.

Speaking at a press gathering Sunday afternoon, Druitt said there was potential for electrical-service outages and advised residents to be careful about lighting “warming fires” or using space heaters or even grills.

“We don’t want people barbecuing in the houses if they lose power,” he said. “And if you do lose power, when the power comes back on, check your circuit breakers. Make sure the outlets you’re using can handle the surge when the power does come back.”

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