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.
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