Saturday October 23rd, 2021 7:54AM

2013 in Review: A month-by-month look back

By Ken Stanford Contributing Editor
Our annual look back at some of the major local and state stories from the past 12 months begins on a political note. The story includes a link to the Associated Press' Top Ten Georgia stories of the year.


While President Obama was being sworn in for another term in Washington, Doug Collins of Gainesville was also in Washington where he took the oath of office as the new 9th District Congressman from Georgia.

Back in Gainesville a number of new Hall County office-holders were beginning their terms in office. Among them, County Commission Chairman Dick Mecum and Sheriff Gerald Couch.

Meanwhile, Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss announced that he would not seek re-election in 2014, saying "this is about frustration" with Washington gridlock that he doesn't see changing in a divided government.

Tornadoes struck Adairsville and Calhoun late in the month and the same storm system hit Gainesville with torrential rain and flooding. This system hit Georgia one week after an ice storm that left a 1/4 inch coating across much of north Georgia. More tornadoes struck Georgia two months later, this time in Pike and Meriwether counties.

A huge multi-use development planned at Price and Thompson Bridge roads north of Gainesville, Riverbrook Village, was approved by the Hall County Board of Commissioners.


On Groundhog Day, Feb. 2, there were 3-5 inches of snow in the north Georgia mountains. It was one of several snow storms to hit the region last winter.

The state Department of Transportation announced the award of a contract for the $8 million replacement of Clarks Bridge in North Hall. Work was projected to be finished in 2015.


Gov. Nathan Deal announced that tolls on Georgia 400 would end by Thanksgiving. True to his word, they did - on Nov. 22.

Winter rains greatly improved drought and lake conditions across north Georgia, a portend of what was to come during the summer.

A new study declared Forsyth County the healthiest county in Georgia; Hall County was eleventh on the list.

Lanier Technical College President Russell Vandiver retired.

On the 19th, plans were approved for a new Dawsonville Highway shopping in west Gainesville across from the Olive Garden and Cheddar's restaurants.

The U.S. Census Bureau announced that Forsyth County's population had topped Hall County's for the first time ever, making it the second-most populous county in northeast Georgia, behind only Gwinnett.

Much to the dismay of many residents and business people in the area, the remainder of Friendship Road in South Hall was renamed Lake Lanier Islands Parkway.

Jerome Yarbrough was named Gainesville Fire Chief.

An indictment was returned in Hall County Superior Court in connection with a deadly jet ski accident on Lake Lanier. About the same time, the state Legislature was passing tougher boating laws, partially in response to that accident, which occurred in 2012 and another in 2012 that took the lives of two Buford brothers.


Lake Lanier reached winter full pool of 1070 on April 2, the highest level since May 2011. The lake reached summer full pool, 1071, on April 13.

April 4 proved to be the coldest April 4 in Gainesville in at least 17 years. There were 15 days in April when temperatures in Gainesville were below normal.


Early in the month, the Red Rabbit, the public transportation system operated by the Gainesville-Hall County Community Services Center, got a new lease on life when the Gainesville City Council agreed to take over sole funding for it, while Hall County Commissioners agreed to take over funding for the on-demand service, Dial-A-Ride. The future of the Red Rabbit had been in doubt after the county commission pulled its part of the funding for it.

Massive flooding struck parts of Hall County, especially the Flowery Branch area, on May 19, causing millions of dollars in property damage - including flooded homes and businesses and washed-out roads. The flooding followed more than seven inches of rain in just a few hours.


Work began on the new Forsyth County jail and courthouse.


Two Hall County sheriff's deputies were fired after a prisoner escaped the Hall County courthouse but their dismissal was later overturned by the Hall County Civil Service Board. The county is appealing the board's action.

A Hall County Firefighter/EMT trainee, Tray Ross, inspired by his life-saving act in November 2011 to become an emergency responder, received the prestigious Carnegie Hero Award.

Demonstrations took place nationwide after a Florida jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in the death of Trayvon Martin, a young black teenager who was shot by Zimmerman. Once such demonstration occurred July 20 outside the federal building in Gainesville.

Lake Lanier and Hall County's first state park opened in July. Don Carter State Park is located in the northern part of the county off Browning Bridge Road.

Hall County Commissioner Craig Lutz announced plans to run next year for the seat on the state Public Service Commission now held by Bubba McDonald.

Almost five inches of rain fell in parts of Hall County between July 1-7, resulting in more flooding in Flowery Branch and causing numerous washed-out or postponed July 4 events.

By July 15, it had rained for 16 straight days in Gainesville and on July 17, trees were blown down all over north Gainesville as a strong storm system moved through. There was some storm damage in the North Hall area on July 16. On July 20, more heavy rains washed out C. Rogers Road in northern Hall County and more trees were felled by stormy weather on July 24.

On July 12, three people were killed and six injured in a midnight wreck on Georgia 365 at Howard Road, scene of several serious wrecks in recent months. The accident involved a tractor-trailer and and several other vehicles.


August brought with it still more flooding in Hall County and more washed-out and/or flooded roads. On August 16-17, parts of north Georgia experienced the lowest high temperatures ever for August as readings stayed in the 60s.

An 18-year-old Gainesville woman was given a seven-year prison sentence (to be followed by 33 years probation) in the death of her infant daughter. She pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree cruelty to children. She had been charged with murder.

Hollywood came to Hall County and Buford in August, with the shooting of an Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore movie. Scenes were shot in Flowery Branch, at the Mall of Georgia and in Gainesville. The movie - "Blended" - opens next May.


This summer proved to be the third-wettest and 16th-coldest on record in Georgia. At the Gainesville airport, temperatures were below normal on 17 of 30 days in June, 29 of 31 in July and 24 of 31 in August. Rainfall in Gainesville totaled 27.98 inches for the three months ending August 31, well-above normal for the period.

A site was officially chosen for a new Atlanta Falcons stadium. It is not far from the Georgia Dome, the team's current home.

Work began on two new Hall County fire stations in North Hall. One is an additional station; the other is a replacement and relocated facility.


Proposed legislation, sponsored by three Hall County state legislators, that would have governed bicycle travel on public roads and required bike registration and licensing was killed by its sponsors in the face of strong opposition to it.

The key component in a renovated Lakeshore Mall in Gainesville, Dick's Sporting Goods, opened.

The new Fair Street Elementary School in Gainesville opened. The new facility replaces the historic structure - dating back to the 1930s - which was torn down a couple of years ago.

Veteran Hall County Juvenile Court Judge Mary Carden announced plans to retire at the end of the year.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners and the Gainesville City Council settled a dispute over Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) revenues.


Danny Dunagan became the first elected mayor of Gainesville under a new system for filling the position. Under the old system, the mayor was chosen by the City Council from a among its ranks every two years. Sam Couvillon was elected to fill Dunagan's spot on the city council which Dunagan had given up in order to run for Mayor. Mike Miller was re-elected Mayor of Flowery Branch.

The Atlanta Braves announced plans to move to Cobb County by the 2017 season.

North Georgians joined people all over the country in marking the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

A Cumming man, Paul J. Bennett, was convicted in Hall County Superior Court of charges growing out of the deaths of two young Buford brothers during a boating accident on Lake Lanier in 2012. He was acquitted, however, of the most serious charges.

A early hard freeze hit north Georgia on Nov. 12, bringing with it lows in the 20s and wind chills in the teens. Another early season blast of Arctic air arrived Thanksgiving week. Thanksgiving Day was the coldest since 1911 in many places in north Georgia. The low at the Gainesville airport that day was 22.


A Texas woman who once lived in Hall County, Shannon Guess Richardson, pleaded guilty to sending ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama and New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, under a deal that her attorney said would cap prison time at 18 years.

Corrections Corporation of America announced plans to close the North Georgia Detention Center in Gainesville by the end of the year.

Gainesville recorded a record rainfall on Dec. 22 and came within a degree of tying the record high for the date. 3.65 inches of rain were recorded at the airport. The old record was 1.65 inches in 1968. The high that day was 68, one degree shy of the record of 69, which was set in 1971.

Dr. Wanda Creel, Barrow County Schools Supt., was named the sole finalist for Supt. for the Gainesville School System, replacing Dr. Merrianne Dyer, who plans to retire at the end of the 2013-2014 school year.

The Gainesville Board of Education, after several months of debate, voted to put high-powered rifles in three schools to be accessible to and in control of the resource officers assigned to those schools.

Gainesville and Hall County finally worked out an agreement on the Glades Reservoir which the county is building in the East Hall area.

Danny Dunagan was sworn in a Gainesville mayor. Newly-elected city councilman Sam Couvillon was also sworn in as was councilman George Wangemann who was re-elected this year.

Two murders occurred in Hall County in December - one in Flowery Branch on Christmas Day and the other on the southside of Gainesville the weekend before Christmas.

Lake Lanier was ending the year about three feet above winter full pool which is 1070. At the beginning of the year, the level was 1058.07.

Northeast Georgia Medical Center officials were notified that the hospital had received level II trauma center designation.


Former Gainesville City Manager Bryan Shuler; former Gainesville Fire Chief Dick Taylor; Kit Braselton, former Braselton Mayor and longtime councilman; Gloria Stargel, well-known Gainesville author of inspirational books and articles and her husband, Joe Stargel, a former Gainesville mayor and councilman, died just months apart in 2013.

Durward Pennington, Gainesville businessman and member of the University of Georgia's 1959 SEC champion football team; Mike Harrison, longtime owner-operator of Harrison Tire and Oil Company in Gainesville; Rev. Grady Carpenter, who pastored Montgomery Memorial Baptist Church in Gainesville for 26 years; retired, longtime Gainesville dentist Robert Jennings.

The longtime owner of Ray Lawrence Pharmacy in Gainesville, Ray Lawrence, who was also a former member of the Gainesville Board of Education; former Hall County Commissioner Bill Ward; retired Cornelia banker and former Habersham County Board of Education member George Dean Telford.

Loyd Strickland of Chestnut Mountain, the founder of Crystal Farms and a pioneer in the poultry and egg industry in Georgia who was also instrumental in bringing a state college to Hall County; longtime Gainesville real estate developer Carl Lawson; former state Transportation Commissioner Bert Lance, who was born in Gainesville, and went to Washington with Jimmy Carter to serve as Carter's Budget Director.

W.H. Maxey, long associated with the restaurant business in Gainesville and owner of the old Dry Dock Restaurant; Dr. Robert Tether of Gainesville, one of the founders of Lakeview Academy and a former Chief of Staff at Northeast Georgia Medical Center.
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