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Life returning to normal after memorable storm
Long week won't soon be forgotten
WEB 2RecCenter
Daniel and Kathy Kaminiski join family and friends for a basketball game Thursday at the Central Park Recreation Center. The facility's schedule was disrupted last week by the weather. - photo by Autumn McBride

The second week of January 2011 is one folks will be talking about for years.

As their cabin fever broke Friday and life began returning to normalacy, people were still buzzing about what had -- and hadn't -- happened.

A winter storm covered most of northern Georgia in snow a week ago, leaving in its wake sleet and subfreezing temperatures that kept roads and other surfaces glazed in ice for days.

Most people couldn't get to work, or anywhere else for that matter, and local schools were closed all week. With the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday Monday, students will not return until Tuesday.

Public safety officials found themselves repeating the warnings, which had begun days ahead of the storm, for people to stay home unless there was an emergency.

Mike Leary of the National Weather Service in Peachtree City said a major complicating factor last week was sleet that fell after the snow and froze, only to be topped by additional layers.

He said the winter storm was likely the third worst the state had experienced in recent years, following those that occurred in 1982 and in 1993.

Could have been worse

As inconvenient as the storm was, however, it could have been worse.

Blake House, spokesman for Sawnee EMC, said there were a couple of power outages over the week in Forsyth County but they weren't weather-related.

He said the company had braced itself after forecasts predicted 1/4 of an inch of freezing rain and ice, which could've toppled power lines and caused other serious problems for the utility's customers.

"That [would've been] very, very bad, but it never came to fruition, so we're tickled to death," House said. "It's much better to be ready and it not happen than the alternative."

Retaining power service and all the comforts it allows (heating, cable TV, Internet) was fortunate, but many residents were praising preparation for making the week more bearable.

Residents who use the county's Meals on Wheels program were prepared, said Shelley Johnson, director of Forsyth County Senior Services.

The program didn't run last week, but shelf-stable meals -- including canned chili, soup and crackers -- had been provided as a precaution.

"Staff has called all of our meal clients almost daily to make sure that they're doing OK with their medications, as well as having something to eat," Johnson said.

Local hospital hunkered down

Lynn Jackson, administrator of Northside Hospital-Forsyth, said employees and patients weathered the storm successfully.

"It's been a wild week, but overall it was great," she said.

Hospital staff stayed overnight at the facility and at nearby hotels. She said a baby born on Ga. 400 eventually joined them.

"She came here subsequently and everything went fine," Jackson said. "... It's just weather conditions were such that it was tough. We've had lots of babies this week."

Jackson said paramedics and emergency medical technicians often had to travel on foot to reach those in need.

She said the emergency room saw many patients seek care during the day, when they felt brave enough to make the trip to the hospital, and the wait for treatment was longer than normal.

"That's just not our standard is to have people to incur these long waits," she said.

Jackson praised road crews that kept paths to the hospital clear.

Clearing roads weeklong chore

As of late last week, the state Department of Transportation estimated it had spent nearly $1 million on the winter storm cleanup in Northeast Georgia alone.

The DOT attacked interstates first, then four-lane state routes, followed by two-lane state routes. Crews used 2,137 tons of salt, 4,447 tons of stone and 11,425 pounds of calcium chloride.

During the week, Forsyth County had three spreaders, two plows and three motor graders in service, said spokeswoman Jodi Gardner.

But the county also owns another spreader and plow, both of which were out of service.

The spreader was being repaired, Gardner said, and the plow was damaged in a wreck during bad weather at Christmas.

During the 2011 budget process, a request to by one additional plow and spreader was declined.

"Cuts were made in a variety of areas in order to submit a balanced budget," she said. "The county currently has the appropriate amount of equipment to provide an adequate level of service."

The weather also disrupted county business, shuttering government offices and services such as parks and recreation for a couple days.

Several meetings were canceled or delayed, including a commission work session, which has been rescheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday.

Lost week for students, parents

Also to be rescheduled are the five lost days of school.

By the time students return to campus Tuesday, they will have been off for 10 days.

District officials are still looking through the school calendar to determine make-up days. Only spring break is off-limits at this point.

Compounding the school situation for parents, many child care centers were also closed.

Melissa Davis, one of the owners of Carrington Academy, said parents were excited when the facility reopened Thursday.

"I saw people writing [online] that they were going nuts and stir crazy," Davis said. "They were ecstatic about us being open."

Many of the parents who send their children to Carrington also couldn't get to work for most if not all of the week.

Single father Casey Shallcross works for the county's 911 Center. He spent the week at home with his 3-year-old daughter.

"Everybody gets sick of being indoors and you just have to keep the kids happy and try to keep your sanity at the same time if you can find that perfect balance," he said.

Public safety stayed busy

Forsyth County Sheriff's Capt. Tim House said the week started out relatively slow, but calls increased as road conditions improved.

He said from 12:01 a.m. Monday through 11 a.m. Thursday, the agency received 1,239 calls for service.

Of those, 30 were for abandoned vehicles, 27 were for wrecks, five were for wrecks with injuries and there were 62 calls for road obstructions.

In addition, there were 156 calls for disabled vehicles and deputies gave 40 courtesy transports.

"As a note of interest, we had no calls involving trees down or power lines down," he said.

Forsyth County Fire Capt. Jason Shivers said the department responded to 88 calls for help between 7 p.m. Sunday and 7 a.m. Wednesday.

Those calls included 54 medical emergencies, three structure fires, five wrecks and one rescue from a well.

Weather was 'really weird'

Kevin Herbert said last week’s winter storm had more impact than “even in the blizzard of ’93.”

While his two Herbert’s Automotive shops reopened Wednesday, Herbert said business was “especially slow.”

“It’s just really weird weather,” Hebert said. “In my 32 years in the auto industry, this has affected us more than anything.”

Jarrett Hyde, manager of Lanier Tire and Wheel Inc., noticed more traffic prior to the storm.

“Saturday was a great day, a big rush. Everyone wanted a new set of tires,” Hyde said. “We like to see snow as much as the grocery stores. Milk, bread and tires, that’s what everyone thinks.”

Glynn Jenkins, a spokesman for Atlanta area Kroger stores, agreed the storm was a boom.

While many locations ran out of some items, Jenkins said delivery trucks had begun restocking by Wednesday afternoon.

Jenkins said the lone areas with any difficulties were the pharmacies, adding “some had limited hours.”

The weather didn’t hinder Lakeside Pharmacy in Cumming.

Owner Apollon Constantinides said the store was closed Monday to make sure “all our employees and patients were safe,” but reopened Tuesday.

“It’s not like we’re selling T-shirts here,” he said. “All of our staff realize what we do is really important to people.”

We survived the snowstorm'

Anne Berger, postmaster for the U.S. Post Office in Cumming, said mail carriers returned to their routes Wednesday.

"We really do appreciate the patience of all our customers," Berger said.

As of Friday, she said some areas were still slick and dangerous for her carriers.

"It is very difficult for them," Berger said. "It's cold and it is difficult to drive on ice. Nobody's good at it." 

They may have waited for mail, but at one Cumming restaurant, customers didn’t have to wait for service.

Jodi Thatcher, manager of the Huddle House on Buford Road, said the week was "extremely busy” for the eatery.

In fact, to ensure the restaurant didn’t have to close, Thatcher said the company paid for her and four staff members to stay at a nearby hotel early in the week.

For her and her employees, it was worthy of recognition.

“We’re all hoping to get T-shirts that say we survived the snowstorm of 2011,” she said.

Alyssa LaRenzie and Crystal Ledford of the FCN staff contributed to this report.