Originally created 12/16/05

Freezing rain, ice leads to power outages, death

COLUMBIA - A blast of freezing rain and ice across Georgia and the Carolinas on Thursday closed schools, snarled traffic and caused power outages to more than 450,000 customers. At least one death was blamed on the storm when an ice-laden tree crashed through a man's house.

"Ice is our greatest nemesis, much worse than snow," said Lucinda Trew, a spokeswoman for Duke Power, the main provider of electricity in the hardest-hit parts of the Carolinas.

The widespread outages were caused by the ice that formed on tree limbs and fell onto power lines. In Kannapolis, N.C., just north of Charlotte, authorities say the weight of that ice buckled a 100-foot-tall tree that crushed 58-year-old David Ralph Jones while he reclined on a couch in his living room.

Electricity was quickly restored to some, but outages by early evening still totaled 260,000 in South Carolina's upstate, 113,000 in western and central North Carolina, 55,000 in northeast Georgia and 34,700 in the Atlanta area.

"The trees and power lines are down everywhere on the road. It's just dangerous to be out," said Rebecca Neal, who was using blankets to keep warm in her powerless Greenville home and thinking about finding a hotel for the night.

Earlier in the day, Ms. Neal had gone to her job at a public relations firm, only to find that her office didn't have power either.

School systems canceled or cut short classes in north Georgia, parts of the Carolinas and western stretches of Virginia.

The wintry mix was blamed for a school bus accident in Cherokee County, on the northern end of suburban Atlanta. The driver swerved to avoid a large tree branch that had fallen across the road, forcing the vehicle's rear tires to slide off the road. None of the 23 students aboard the bus was injured.

mike bonner/herald journalSpartanburg City firefighters guard a burning high voltage line that fell on a road in Spartanburg, S.C., during an ice storm. A jolt of freezing rain across Georgia, the Carolinas and eastern Virginia caused traffic problems. An Atlanta school bus was in an accident after the driver swerved to miss a fallen tree.[CAPTION]

Sefton Ipock/Anderson Independent-MailJulianna Jones (left) and her mother, Laura, pull on an ice-coated branch to remove it from their driveway in Anderson, S.C. The storm, which began early Thursday, blanketed the region with ice. As a result, businesses were closed, streets were filled with debris, and many people were without power.[CAPTION]

Paula Stuhr/Associated PressBritt Allen, a contractor with Georgia Power, removes limbs hanging from power lines in Gainesville, Ga. More than 450,000 people reported power outages after the ice storm, which began early Thursday and hit parts of Georgia, the Carolinas and eastern Virginia.[CAPTION]

Mike Bonner/Herald JournalIce-covered trees turned downtown Spartanburg, S.C., into a winter wonderland as freezing rain and ice blanketed parts of the South. Schools canceled or cut short classes as a result.[CAPTION]

Jason Braverman/Gwinnett Daily PostIce brought down this large tree in a Sugar Hill, Ga., yard. Freezing rain and ice swept through the area early Thursday. A North Carolina man was killed when a tree fell on his home.

The 'iffy' line

Today's forecast for the Augusta area, in contrast to the icy weather north of the region Thursday, is pleasant: mostly sunny, with a high in the mid-50s, according to the National Weather Service office in West Columbia, S.C.

On Thursday, Augusta-area residents experienced cold rain, but saw no ice, sleet or snow. Highs didn't rise over the 40s at Daniel Field, the weather service said.

The only problem officials had to deal with was dense fog that had the potential to make Thursday's evening commutes more difficult, said Pam Tucker, the director of the Columbia County Emergency Services Division.

Despite the fog, wintry conditions keep officials on their toes, Mrs. Tucker said, as the area is usually along a line where conditions can't be easily predicted sometimes.

Often, winter weather warnings and watches are issued for areas along a line from Augusta to Columbia, either north or south of the line."We are on a line - the iffy line," she said. "A lot of times, when you aren't expecting things to happen here, they'll happen."

- Jeremy Craig, Staff Writer

For the 7-day forecast, go to www.augustachronicle.com/weather.


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