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Thursday February 11th, 2016 10:10AM

White County officials gearing up for predicted cold

By Rob Moore Reporter
CLEVELAND - Like officials across the region, White County officials are preparing for the coldest temperatures in as much as 20 years.

Taking time out from their Saturday and Sunday afternoon schedules, those officials met in the Situation Room at the White County Emergency Operations Center for conference call briefings with the National Weather Service.

White County Public Safety Director David Murphy, who coordinated the meetings, said his biggest concern is the life-threatening single-digit temperatures and sub-zero wind chills predicted for Monday into Tuesday.

"It is imperative that we express how dangerous the upcoming weather event could be, especially concerning the wind chill on Tuesday," Murphy said Sunday. "The snow and ice brings its own set of circumstances, but these cold temperatures and wind chills below zero are very concerning to me."

Murphy said fire stations throughout White County will be manned by at least two personnel beginning overnight Sunday, and staffing at the county's 9-1-1 center has been increased until further notice.

White County Sheriff Neal Walden said motorists should stay off the roads except in emergencies.

Should drivers venture out onto icy roads and be involved in minor collisions - any wreck without injuries where a road is not blocked - Walden said they may have to wait until temperatures rise above freezing mid-week before recovering their vehicles to avoid creating additional hazards.

Cleveland City Clerk Connie Tracas said the city's trucks would be ready to apply sand to streets in the higher elevation of the city should icing occur. She noted that should a city water main break during the extreme cold, city crews likely will have to shut off a valve affecting numerous customers, and may not immediately be able to make needed repairs.

Like Walden, Cleveland Police Chief John Foster said accident reports on minor wrecks may have to wait. He will remind his officers to dress in layers for times when they are required to be out of their cars.

Cleveland Fire Chief Ricky Pruitt said personnel will man the city fire station beginning Sunday night.

White County School Superintendent Jeff Wilson initially closed school Monday, but quickly added a Tuesday system-wide closure. He cited safety concerns with older buses in single-digit temperatures, as well as the health dangers for students who walk or who wait on buses.

National Weather Service officials said frostbite can occur in as little as 30 minutes.

Warning signs of frostbite include white or grayish-yellow skin, numbness and skin that feels unusually firm or waxy. Frostbitten areas are number and can easily be burned, so avoid using heating pads, fireplaces or radiators for warming - and do not rub the frostbitten area, which can cause more damage.

Hypothermia is another concern in extreme cold. Symptoms include shivering, memory loss, fumbling hands, slurred speech and drowsiness. If the victim's body temperature drops below 95 degrees, seek medical help immediately.

In Habersham County, School Superintendent Matthew Cooper said the teacher workday for Monday has been cancelled, and the system will be closed for all employees.

Similarly, Stephens County Schools will be closed for staff and students on Monday, said School Superintendent Sherrie Whiten.
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