Erring on the side of caution, local schools closed Wednesday and Thursday, and government offices closed Wednesday, following predictions that winter weather would make area roads dangerously slick.
Utility companies had crews on standby, too, in case power outages were reported.
“The safety of our students and staff will always be our first concern,” Liberty County School Board Chairwoman Lily Baker said.
Officials said the precautions did not cause any significant financial impact.
Liberty County Administrator Joey Brown said the county did not incur any additional expenses Wednesday, other than what was already budgeted. Public works employees were on call, along with other essential employees including department heads, Brown said.
School Superintendent Dr. Valya Lee said the state allows school systems four days for contingencies, such as “snow days.” Faculty can make up the days later, through flex time, Lee said. She emphasized there are employees who commute from outside Liberty County. The superintendent added school buses cannot maneuver well in slush, snow or ice, and chance getting stuck.
Last week there were busloads of students stranded in the Atlanta area when the storm hit north Georgia.
Mark Bolton, vice president of communications, marketing and economic development with Coastal Electric Cooperative, said the utility used the storm as a drill. Bolton confirmed last week’s storm did not cause any major outages, except for one individual outage in Bryan County.
“We implemented and followed our disaster plan just as if we expected a big storm,” Bolton said. “We prepared for the worst and hoped for the best. It was a good disaster drill and it gave some of our newer employees real-world experience with what it might be like if a major winter storm or hurricane might hit. Even though there were some costs to mobilize extra crews and equipment we benefited from the exercise.”
Coastal EMC had 30 people assigned to a staging area at the Holiday Inn Express in Hinesville on Wednesday, he said. Fifteen of them were from Asplundh, the right-of-way crew contracted by Coastal, Bolton said.
“We choose to place them in the hotel because many of them live outside the local area,” he explained. “We were afraid they might not be able to get to our headquarters because of ice on bridges and roadways.”
Bolton added that two other contract crews were called in. These crews get paid “from the time they leave their home base until we release them.” One of the crews never arrived, he said.
“They were stuck in Atlanta and had to get help from the National Guard to get out of the bog,” he said. “They were finally able to get underway and headed this way but we were able to turn them around before they got here.”
Bolton said the estimated cost for a five-man crew with bucket trucks and equipment is roughly $1,000 per hour.
Bolton said Coastal routinely maintains rights-of-way, trimming overhanging limbs and removing dead trees.
“But an ice storm can still cause tall trees outside of our maintained right-of-way to fall across the lines,” he said. “Also, ‘yard trees’ that we may have not trimmed as severely can become loaded with ice and drop limbs onto the power lines.”