City of Savannah shutting down in response to winter storm

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Georgia Governor Nathan Deal has declared a State of Emergency for 28 counties including Chatham County in preparation for wintry weather on Wednesday.

The city is shutting down Wednesday, saying they're looking for one to three inches of wintry mix. They'll have crews working throughout the night Tuesday and all day Wednesday. One of the most significant closings was announced Tuesday afternoon by the City of Savannah. Officials made the call to give city workers an extended winter break.

The city has five sand trucks they'll be using along with resources from Chatham County and GDOT, like salt trucks. They say they'll be out with salt mainly on overpasses and bridges. City officials were extremely honest during Tuesday's press conference, saying they've assessed their resources and they'll not to be able to respond or accommodate every part of the city if this storm hits hard - so they're telling people to stay home.

"I think the challenge is we obviously can't get to every single street in Savannah, and so when you can't get to every single street, we can get to some of the priority routes but not every single street, so we're encouraging everyone to stay in," said Heath Lloyd, Chief Infrastructure and Development Officer.

"We're looking at one to three inches of that wintry mix, so as the mayor pointed out, we don't want people driving in that. To keep people safe, as he pointed out, the city offices are closed. We are following suit with Chatham County Schools Wednesday as well as county offices," said David Donnelly, Savannah Emergency Management Director.

There are many school closures in both Georgia and South Carolina Wednesday. You can see a full closure list here. Savannah-Chatham County Public School leaders say it wouldn't be safe to have a delay in these types of conditions.

"If we delayed school, that delay would have put us in the middle of freezing rain, ice, black ice, as well as having buses transporting kids in that type of condition," said Vanessa Kaigler, Deputy Superintendent of SCCPSS. "We have to be mindful of all of the overpasses. We have to be mindful of all of the road closures, certainly mindful of any ice, black ice, any wintry mix that's predicted as well as which will be very difficult for our school buses to pick up kids."

The weather is sending a lot of people to hardware stores before the temperature drops any further. One store manager says the one thing everyone wants that they are sold out of is a small space heater. They had a few pallets, but they're all gone. All that's left are units that have to be installed.

Lowe's has been busy all afternoon with shoppers loading up supplies to make sure their apartments and homes stay warm during the cold snap. Popular items include expanding foam to fill gaps and cracks, pipe protectant, and rubber window seals. The manager says if you plan to start your fireplace for the first time in a while, there are a few things to keep in mind.

"You want to make sure all the vents are open. You want to make sure you don't have any back feed of any gas or the smoke inside your house," said Michael Naro, Lowe's Manager.

Lowe's has boxes set out towards the front of the store with cold weather material in them so customers can just grab and go. One question we've heard repeatedly is people asking how to fix cracks and leaks from windows.

"You can definitely feel the cold air coming in, which makes your heaters work harder. If the heaters are working harder when they don't need to, then there's potential for the heater to go out, and you don't want that to happen," said Michael Naro, Lowe's Manager.

The Georgia Department of Transportation will be activating their winter weather plan, beginning at 9:00 Tuesday night. Crews will be out pre-treating all major roadways, including major highways and state routes to try to make sure roads do not ice over. GDOT also says they are ready with snow plows, should our area get snow.

"If you can, stay warm at home is the best advice we can give right now, but if you have to commute in the morning if you do see our forces out there, please give us plenty of distance and slow down. They are working, they are trying to keep these roadways passable for you to be able to get around," said Jill Nagel, District Communication Officer, GDOT.

Crews will be working along I-16 to prevent major overpass freezing. GDOT is in the process of spraying brime down on major interstates and highways. They'll be there throughout the night Tuesday to keep the roadways safe.

"We have a winter weather plan and we have activated that."

"Obviously, we've got to get our officers ready for the cold weather on top of dangerous roads and a potential for downed trees, downed power lines, from the weight of ice or snow," said Sgt. Jason Pagliaro, SCMPD Emergency Management Liason.

GDOT says they have almost 250 crew members working to prep the roads. Even with the prep to keep the highways and interstates safe, the safest option is just to stay home.

"It slows our response times for chance of ice on the roadways, things like that. We've got to adjust accordingly, and then we ask the public does the same," Sgt. Pagliaro said. "If you don't have to go out, then don't. The more they're out, the harder it is for us to respond to accidents, and the more chance of them getting into an accident.

"The main thing we can advise motorists is if you don't have to be out on the roadways, don't. Give us time to get this pretreatment down," Nagel said.

The salt and water mixture goes on before the storm, but when snow comes, GDOT is geared with over 10 snow plows in the area to take to the roadways.

"Ice on the bridge forms faster than it does on the roadways, so be careful on the overpasses and bridges. Things like that, even the steel decked bridges like the Varnado Bridge, you may see ice on that. Be cautious, slow down, and drive safe," Sgt. Pagliaro said. "We just ask everyone, you see the signs, and we in the South don't pay much attention to it because we don't have ice very often."

If you do get out on the roadways and get yourself in a bind, the Champ drivers aren't taking the day off. They can come to whereever your car is and give you some gas or call a tow truck for you.

Leaders in Bulloch County are offering tips for dealing with days of cold weather. Even if things stay dry, they're asking people to limit their time in the freezing temperatures and take extra precautions to protect themselves and their property.

"We go back to telling people to check on their neighbors, bring in their pets, and drip those pipes," said Ted Wynn, Bulloch County Public Safety.

Water flowing through pipes - indoors or outdoors - keeps it from freezing and bursting pipes.

Whether you get precipitation or not, these temperatures should not be taken lightly.

"Don't be out in this severe weather unless you just have to. You can get into some real physical challenges if you exert yourself and there's always the chance of frost bite," Wynn said.

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