GAINESVILLE - While it pales in comparison to the totals for Fiscal Year 2011, the number of man-hours, materials and money expended by the state Department of Transportation on winter weather events in northeast Georgia this winter far exceeds those of last winter.
The winter of 2011-12 was one of the mildest on record in terms of snow/ice events and temperatures. (See earlier story. Link below.)
But the winter of 2012-2013 was just the opposite.
Teri Pope, spokeswoman for the GDOT office in Gainesville says there were seven snow/ice events in the region covered by the office this winter. While places like Gainesville, Cumming and Jefferson and other cities and counties in the lower elevations saw very little, if any, snow or ice, the same was not true in the mountains. Some places in the higher elevations recorded snow or ice on several occasions - some producing several inches of snow and extending five days into spring with snow recorded in some mountain areas on March 25.
Pope says total man-hours devoted to winter weather events in northeast Georgia this winter amounted to 9,695. The crews used 4,160 tons of stone and salt in trying to keep roads and highways free of ice and snow. In addition, 14,326 gallons of brine were used in that effort. The total cost for all of this was $546,116, according to Pope.
Last winter, only 172 man-hours and 60 tons of salt and stone, were expended, at a cost of $48,490.
But again, this winter's numbers are nothing compared to the winter of 2010-11. That's when a big snowstorm in early January 2011, the one that disrupted the inauguration of Gov. Nathan Deal, occurred - paralyzing many places in north Georgia for about a week. The Gainesville GDOT office spent $2.5 million on winter weather events that winter, with crews logging more 27,950 man-hours.
THE WINTER THAT WOULDN'T GO AWAY
If the winter of 2011-12 was "The Winter that Wasn't," then this year's might be dubbed "The Winter that Wouldn't Go Away."
In March, there were 22 days on which below-normal temperatures were recorded at Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport in Gainesville - including the first day of spring (March 20) and ten days between then and the end of the month.
Even as late as Thursday, April 4, winter-like conditions were lingering. The high in Gainesville was 46. It was rainy and windy with wind chills in the 30s and wind gusts as high as 29 mph at the airport. That was the coldest April 4 in at least 17 years in Gainesville. Last year, the high was 82, the same as 2011.
A look back at the data for this winter shows that there were 32 days between the first and last days of winter on which a temperature of freezing or below was recorded at the Gainesville airport. That compares to just a dozen for the winter of 2011-2012.
Drought-plagued Lake Lanier benefited from plentiful rain (and snow) over the winter months and finally reached winter full pool (1070) on April 2. At the beginning of the year, it the level was 1058.07, almost 12 feet below that mark. Friday morning, the lake level was 1070.23.
All of Georgia benefited from winter rains - and by Thursday virtually the entire state had been declared drought-free. The U.S. Drought Monitor reported that only a few counties along the coast and from Augusta to Macon and south metro Atlanta (but including most of Fulton County) were considered to be in a drought - either "abnormally dry" or suffering from "moderate" drought conditions. Those are the two least-serious categories used by the Drought Monitor to gauge the severity of dry weather.
But Thursday's weather may have been this winter's "last gasp," at least in Gainesville. The extended forecast calls for more seasonal weather over the next ten days - with lows in the 50s and 60s and highs mostly in the 60s and 70s. A high of 80 is forecast Tuesday.