Wednesday November 25th, 2015 8:34PM

Winter weather briefing has local officials urging safety

By Bryan Pirkle Reporter
GAINESVILLE - The National Weather Service held an emergency weather briefing tonight to inform local officials about the ongoing winter weather event that is blanketing North Georgia.

In attendance was Hall County Commission Chair Dick Mecum, who, along with Gainesville mayor Danny Dunagan and Flowery Branch mayor Mike Miller, declared a local State of Emergency that took effect earlier today.

"This particular thing is what they call a 'catastrophic and historic' event, which is a rather unusual way of putting it. They treat it with a high degree of confidence that this is pretty much what's going to happen," Mecum said in regards to the forecast that officials had laid forth.

Mecum said meteorologists with the NWS are predicting that the second round of winter weather will start to set in beginning around 1 a.m. on Wednesday morning, calling for what they termed "wet snow," along with potential bouts of sleet and freezing rain.

"They're anticipating snow in this area somewhere between 6 and 8 inches," he said. "This is going to be with us probably 30-35 hours, so it's a major event. Plus, we're gonna see probably an inch of sleet and they're guessing anywhere from a quarter-inch to an inch of ice."

Following the nearly state-wide fiasco that resulted from last month's similar winter weather event, Mecum said local and state officials are acting proactively in an attempt to maintain as strong a sense of normalcy as possible.

He added: "It's always good to try to get ahead of these things as best you can. You just plan for the worst and hope for the best, is what you do."

Along with the wintry precipitation that forecasters are expecting, Mecum said windy conditions on Wednesday and Thursday are likely to add to the strain this weather event is already putting on the area.

"I think the thing that's really scary about this is gonna be the high winds that are gonna be with it. We're looking at 25 mile-per-hour winds, and gusts much higher than that," he said. "So we caution people to be very, very careful, because we could lose a lot of power over the next several hours."

Local officials are so concerned about the potential for power outages that they are establishing 2 staging areas in Hall County where people struggling with the conditions can find shelter. The South Hall staging area has been set up at Blackshear Baptist Church in Oakwood, while the North Hall area is located at First United Methodist Church in Gainesville. Mecum added: "If it gets really, really, really bad and we're getting a lot of people who are needing shelter, then we're going to start opening those up."

Mecum said operations have begun at the local Command Center, and that should anyone need assistance during the storm, officials will be more than happy to help.

"If there's families, the elderly, people who are needing shelter, there will be somebody here all the way through the storm
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