Originally created 01/30/05

Storm temporarily slows down area



Freezing rain, sleet and ice temporarily slowed the Augusta area Saturday but weather officials were thankful the storm didn't compare to last year's massive ice-over that brought the city to a standstill and cut power to thousands.

Saturday's storm dumped a quarter-inch of freezing rain on the area but didn't cause as many problems as feared, officials said.

Even so, the National Weather Service extended an ice storm warning to 7 a.m. today in Richmond, Columbia, McDuffie and Aiken counties and to 7 p.m. in Burke and Baldwin counties, said Tim Hawks, a National Weather Service meteorologist in West Columbia, S.C.

"We really expected a lot worse, but hoped for the best," said Chief Howard Willis, the director of the Richmond County Emergency Agency.

Richmond and Columbia county emergency officials worked quickly to salt bridges and overpasses and respond to minor vehicle accidents, including some at Bobby Jones Expressway and Interstate 20, North Leg and Wrightsboro roads, Gordon Highway and the Georgia Highway 25 overpass and the Belair Road bridge at I-20, he said.

Early Saturday morning, the westbound lanes of River Watch Parkway and the Sandbar Ferry bridge heading into South Carolina were closed, but they reopened later, Chief Willis said.

Augusta Regional Airport cancelled all flights Saturday, according to an airport official.

By nightfall, the inclement weather started to take its toll on residents, according to the National Weather Service.

Power outages were reported in McDuffie, Richmond, Columbia and Lincolnton counties, Mr. Hawks said.

By early evening, close to 1,500 Richmond County residents were without power, Georgia Power spokesman Tal Wright said. About 1,100 customers were without service in Columbia County, along with 500 Waynesboro residents, he said.

But Thomson residents fared worse, he said, with about 3,400 outages. The outages were mainly caused by weight from the frozen trees and limbs snapping power lines, Mr. Wright said.

Aiken County and western South Carolina residents fared much better than their Georgia counterparts, said Brian Duncan, a South Carolina Electric & Gas spokesman.

"Considering the circumstances, we were very fortunate," said Mr. Duncan, adding that SCE&G would continue to monitor weather patterns through today.

One Augusta woman felt very fortunate Saturday.

Spryng Bombicca, 30, was driving along Walton Way near Lake Forest Drive when she was stopped by a massive, ice-burdened oak branch, which landed on the top of her vehicle.

"I heard a crack," she said, "and then I heard a thump."

Ms. Bombicca, driving about 30 mph at the time, wasn't injured.

She said she considered herself fortunate because the limb formed a 'V' around the carriage of her Honda Accord, leaving the passenger area virtually untouched. The branch smashed the car's front and rear windshields.

The accident closed a small portion of Walton Way for more than an hour.

Ms. Bombicca said it's her first winter in Augusta after many snowy seasons in Pennsylvania.

"I've driven in 6 feet of snow and all kinds of ice and never had anything happen," she said. "Here I move to Georgia and a tree limb falls on my car."

Staff writer Travis Haney contributed to this article.

Reach Kate Lewis or Timothy Cox at (706) 724-0851.


The Forecast

Today: Mostly cloudy with a 20 percent chance of freezing rain in the morning. Highs in the lower 40s. Winds northwest about 10 mph

Tonight: Partly cloudy. Lows around 30. North winds 5 to 10 mph.

Monday: Partly cloudy. Highs near 50. North winds about 10 mph. Source: National Weather Service

Weather News For updates on today's cancellations, delayed openings and other weather-related news, see augustachronicle.com/weather. To share information about a cancellation, road problem, power outage or other news, send an e-mail to webmaster@augusta chronicle.com with the subject line "weather."


Weather's Effects

Georgia The freezing rain and sleet spread sheets of ice across parts of Georgia on Saturday, canceling hundreds of airline flights, causing at least two traffic deaths on the slick roads and leaving about 150,000 homes without power.

South Carolina The wintry mix of rain, ice and snow that fell across South Carolina caused at least one traffic fatality, in Lexington County. Snow began falling in the Upstate before 6 a.m. and temperatures dropped throughout the morning. - Associated Press


WHERE TO CALL

FALLEN TREES AND LIMBS

 •  In Richmond County, call 911 if the tree is on a city road or public property.

 •  In Columbia County, call the Columbia County Sheriff's Office dispatch at 541-2800.

 •  In Aiken County, call the Aiken County Sheriff's Office at (800) 922-9709.

 •  For weather-related emergencies in the city of Aiken, call Aiken Public Safety at (803) 642-7620.

 •  In Edgefield County, call the Edgefield County Sheriff's Office at (803) 637-5337.

 •  In McCormick County, call the McCormick County Sheriff's Office at (864) 465-2520.

 •  In Barnwell County, call the Barnwell County Sheriff's Office at (803) 541-1078.

 •  In Allendale County, call the sheriff's office at (803) 584-2361.

POWER OUTAGES

 •  Aiken Electric Cooperative Inc. customers can call (877) 264-5368.

 •  South Carolina Electric and Gas customers can call (888) 333-4465.

 •  Jefferson Energy Cooperative customers can call (706) 547-2167.

 •  Georgia Power customers can call (888) 891-0938. Those with handheld computers with wireless access to the Internet can go to www.georgiapower. com.

FLIGHT INFORMATION

 •  Atlantic Southeast Airlines, (800) 325-1999.

 •  US Airways, (800) 943-5436.

DRIVING ON ICE

 •  Remove ice and snow from windows, license plates and lights.

 •  Slow down! Posted speed limits are for dry, clear conditions only.

 •  Beware of shaded spots, bridges, overpasses and intersections. These are areas where ice is likely to form first or be the most slippery.