JEFFERSON - Jackson Electric Membership Corporation (EMC) has activated its Emergency Restoration Plan and, based on the latest forecast from the National Weather Service, is preparing for a major winter weather event that has the potential to create widespread power outages.
"The National Weather Service is advising at this point in time that we could see up to a .66 inch accumulation of ice from sleet and freezing rain on Wednesday, with sustained winds of 15-20 miles per hour and gusts of 25-30 miles per hour. Combined that will create a threat of downed power lines, as well as downed trees and tree limbs that fall on power lines," said Jim Smith, vice president of engineering and operations.
Jackson EMC has called in assistance from 45 electric contractor crews, including crews from south Georgia, Missouri and Florida, to supplement the cooperative's 34 line crews.
"We'll be watching closely as this situation develops over this evening into tomorrow, and will begin responding to outages as soon as they're report," Smith said.
Smith noted that supplies have been checked, trucks stocked and gassed, and all cooperative employees ready should outages occur. "We're as ready as we can be, now it's just a matter of seeing what Mother Nature will throw at us. We are extremely concerned about the impact of this storm on our members and will work as fast as conditions and safety requirements will allow to restore power as quickly as possible."
In the event of an outage, Jackson EMC customers may report outages from their PC or mobile device at the cooperative's website, www.jacksonemc.com, or by calling 1-855-422-7600, and can track outages on the cooperative's website Storm Center outage map. Also located in the Storm Center is information on how to prepare for a storm, electrical safety after the storm and generator safety.
Aaron Strickland, emergency operations director for Georgia Power, said the utility is bringing in crews from Florida, Texas, Oklahoma and Michigan. Strickland, who has spent 35 years with Georgia Power, said he's never seen an inch of ice in metro Atlanta.
"I've seen people forecast it, but it's never come," Strickland said. "And I'm hoping it don't this time."
ICE STORM WARNING
The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued an ice warning for a large number of counties in central and east central Georgia, extending from near LaGrange to Macon to near Augusta. The area covered by the ice storm warning extends as far north as Athens-Clark County, Madison County and the south metro Atlanta area.
Meanwhile, a winter storm warning remains in effect for most of north Georgia including the Gainesville area for the possibility of several more inches of snow and some icing overnight and into Thursday.
(See separate postings for complete details.)
The NWS has used the word "catastrophic" to describe the pending ice storm, adding that it doesn't use the term "catastrophic" often and lightly and predicting that this storm is likely to be worse than the one that struck metro Atlanta in Jan. 2000, leaving 350,000 people without power.
(For a look at crippling winter storms that have struck Georgia the past 40 years, click on the link below.)