MILLEDGEVILLE — With Baldwin and surrounding counties under an ice storm warning until 1 p.m. Thursday, law enforcement, emergency responders and utility providers all mobilized every available staffer.
Power companies continue working on Middle Georgia outages as the worst parts of the winter attack weren’t expected until temperatures dropped later in the day and evening Wednesday.
According to an Associated Press report, the Georgia Department of Transportation is urging drivers to avoid traveling until at least Thursday afternoon as snow and freezing rain continue falling in the region.
GDOT spokeswoman Karlene Barron said in a statement Wednesday that road conditions are expected to worsen overnight, and drivers are urged to avoid traveling unless it’s an emergency. Transportation officials say wind gusts of up to 30 mph are also expected to cause downed trees and power lines in some areas.
Georgia Power’s Storm Center in Atlanta has been open since Monday morning, coordinating more than 5,000 Georgia Power employees, contractors and workers from other utilities brought in to assist in restoration efforts following this severe weather.
According to a 1:30 p.m. Wednesday press release update, there were more than 126,000 active Georgia Power customer outages in Georgia. The majority of those outages are concentrated in metro Atlanta, central and eastern Georgia.
Over the past 24 hours service has been temporarily interrupted for a total of 192,000 customers due to the snow and ice.
The majority of these outages have occurred since 6 a.m. Wednesday morning. Georgia Power restored power service to nearly 66,000 customers throughout the state in that timeframe.
Shortly before 3 p.m., Georgia Power’s interactive outage map showed 10 Baldwin County outages affecting 115 customers.
By presstime Wednesday, Tri-County EMC reported 93 scattered outages affecting 3,779 customers in its six-county service area. The utility’s press release blamed the issues on a combination of icy trees and wind.
Baldwin County had 420 Tri-County customer outages at last report Wednesday.
As far as the roads are concerned, TFC Jim Lewis with the Georgia State Patrol said the roadways on the Highway 441 corridor west to Highway 212 looked fine at 11:45 a.m. Wednesday.
Lewis said the ice was spotty during the daily run.
“I think the worse is probably going to be coming in later,” Lewis said.
GSP reported no Baldwin County traffic accidents at press time.
Milledgeville Police Department Patrol Commander Maj. John Davis said most people are staying off of the road as the ice falls, which prevented any collisions.
The city is on edge like everyone else as the conditions were predicted to worsen into Thursday’s early hours.
“We’ve got notice this is going to continue through the night with freezing temperatures,” Davis said. “[Thursday] morning I expect it to be pretty significant ice on the ground.”
Sgt. MacKay Bloodworth of Milledgeville’s GSP Post 33 said Wednesday the Sparta area is catching the “brunt of the storm.”
Fallen trees completely blocked Highway 22 heading out of Baldwin into Hancock County, according to Bloodworth.
“There were several more trees that looked like they could fall at any time,” he said. “There is a lot more ice accumulation in (Sparta).”
GSP posts are sending hourly reports back to command staff in Atlanta regarding road conditions and tree issues blocking travel routes.
“We are running all personnel around the clock right now,” Bloodworth said.
The Milledgeville-Baldwin County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) activated the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at Baldwin County 911 to monitor winter weather and road conditions.
Baldwin County Fire Rescue Chief and EMA Director Troy Reynolds said only two reports of trees on power lines came into the EOC by 2 p.m. Wednesday.
“All the roads are passable right now,” Reynolds said. “We are kind of in a holding pattern. The wind is supposed to increase speed here this afternoon and that may cause us some issues. We aren’t out of the weather yet.”
Reynolds said the area should thaw out by midday Thursday.
Emergency warming shelters were available at The Fun Factory on 1850 N. Columbia St. and at Northside Baptist Church at 1000 N. Jefferson St. through Wednesday night.