Pam Tucker wasn't supposed to work today, but as forecasters revised their call for snow and ice in the Augusta area, Columbia County's Emergency Services director spent most of New Year's Day in the office.
"I don't think people realize how bad this could be," she said. "It's hard to imagine on a pretty day like this that it's going to happen."
At 4:25 p.m. today, the National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch for Wednesday and Thursday. Forecasters expected snow and ice to begin falling about 3 a.m. Wednesday and continue through Thursday.
Mrs. Tucker spent the day contacting other officials to ensure plans for wintry weather were in place. She also sent several e-mails updating the weather situation. As of this afternoon, no decision on closing local schools had been made, Mrs. Tucker said.
The danger, according to Mrs. Tucker, is the temperatures. The high for Wednesday is supposed to be 33 degrees, and on Thursday, 38 degrees. That means any precipitation that sticks - forecasters are calling for about an inch in Augusta and as much as 4 inches in some surrounding counties - could freeze.
"It could be even more hazardous Thursday than Wednesday if the snow and ice freeze," Mrs. Tucker said.
Columbia County sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris said the department has placed all-terrain vehicle units and auxiliary and reserve units on standby. The department also has a supply of snow chains ready, he said.
"Historically, we have not needed the snow chains," he said. "Most of our precipitation in the past has been in the form of ice."
Roads and bridges crews also were on standby late today, armed with a supply of salt, sand and gravel.
"Everything is ready to go," said Mrs. Tucker.
TIPS FROM THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE: