Originally created 01/26/00

Storm: Forecast calls for rain, cold



Temperatures in the mid-40s Tuesday brought Augusta out of a 24-hour hibernation. But the respite could end by the weekend.

The National Weather Service's forecast for Friday and Saturday calls for a chance of rain or sleet, with lows in the middle 20s and highs between 40 and 45.

"We're not really looking at snow as far south as the Augusta area," said Richard Charnick, a forecaster with the weather service. "But we may get sort of a mixed precipitation pattern: possibly sleet and either rain or freezing rain, depending on surface temperature. It looks like it could start Friday night and work into Saturday."

That weather should not be as severe as Monday's storm, Mr. Charnick said.

On Monday, when 4 inches of rain and up to 8 inches of snow fell on parts of the Augusta area, about 7,500 South Carolina homes were without power. By midday Tuesday, most of those problems had been fixed.

Area schools also are getting back to normal. All schools will be open today except those in Edgefield County, S.C. In Aiken County, schools will open 2 1/2 hours late but will let out at normal times; teachers and staffers should report at the normal time. South Carolina state offices in Saluda, Edgefield and McCormick counties will open at 1 p.m.

In Columbia County, emergency officials were recovering from a blizzard of their own Tuesday. Dispatchers handled 645 phone calls, including 103 concerning accidents and stranded vehicles.

"It's much quieter (Tuesday)," Columbia County Emergency Services Director Pam Tucker said. "There's been a couple of accidents, but compared to yesterday this has been a wonderful day."

One of the accidents police responded to Monday night involved a Medical College of Georgia van, which slid off the icy roads and hit a tree, sending the driver to the intensive care unit. Bill McBride, chief of administrative services in the Division of Public Safety at MCG, was listed in fair condition Tuesday.

Mr. McBride was part of an emergency winter weather program at MCG to transport essential personnel who can't otherwise get to the hospital. He was transporting nursing supervisor Annette Hobbs and licensed practical nurse Judy Lahr at about 10:30 p.m. on Washington Road a half-mile from Pollard's Corner. The MCG van apparently hit a patch of ice and slush and slid off the road before striking the tree, MCG spokeswoman Toni Baker said. The nurses were treated and released.

In the Augusta area's outlying counties, officials spent Tuesday assessing damage.

"As far as trees, power lines and all that, we did real good," said John Graham of the Warren County Emergency Management Agency. "We didn't have anything to deal with there. Everything all in all went real well."

McDuffie, Lincoln and Warren counties also reported little, if any, damage, although 2-4 inches of snow fell on the areas.

Saluda County reported 6 inches of snow; Edgefield County 6 to 7 inches; McCormick 5 inches; and Aiken County 5 to 8 inches.

For the most part, Georgia power utilities employees were a little relieved with the outcome of Monday's storm.

"Power outages were actually very minimal on Monday," said Lisa Frederick, Georgia Power Co. spokeswoman. "We had no more than 20 to 30 outages throughout the day, with most of them in Columbia County and only a handful of customers in Richmond County."

Richmond County, which saw the least accumulation in the area, had several accidents Tuesday morning caused by slick roads. Between 10 p.m. Monday and 10 a.m. Tuesday, there were 21 accidents reported in Richmond County, three with injuries.

Although the volume of wrecks Tuesday morning was higher than normal, it could have been worse, said Maj. Larry Vinson of Richmond County Sheriff's Department.

"For the conditions, that's not bad," he said.

Several heavily traveled roads were sanded early Tuesday morning by the Georgia Department of Transportation, said David Dlugolenski, Richmond County Emergency Management director.

"We just had slick areas here in the morning, but we had nothing major whatsoever," he said.

Although the snow and rain presented Richmond County with little trouble, there was one unexpected agitation.

"The biggest problem we had was the store owners in the area having their sprinklers on a timer," Mr. Dlugolenski said. "That caused some problems in the area. When the sprinklers go off in the morning, the water freezes on the roads."

In the city of Aiken, police were more occupied with resetting burglar alarms after broken branches landed on power lines and several transformers were knocked out, Aiken Department of Public Safety Capt. Tom Galardi said. County crews stayed busy shuttling hospital employees and other emergency workers to and from their jobs.

By midday Tuesday, local emergency officials were shifting their focus to the aftermath of the snow.

"There is quite a bit of runoff," Mrs. Tucker said, adding that crews would be watching flood-prone areas. "All of that water is going to have to go somewhere now."

Staff Writers Tom Corwin, Ashlee Griggs, Mark Mathis and Chasiti Kirkland contributed to this article.

Reach Jason B. Smith at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 115.