Snow and rain bring extra work load for schools, county

  • Caleb Sorrells takes full advantage of a surprise Saturday snowfall by taking a speedy sledding run.
    Caleb Sorrells takes full advantage of a surprise Saturday snowfall by taking a speedy sledding run.

There’s a saying in North Georgia that goes something like “If you don’t like the weather, stick around a day or two.” This past week was a testimony to the truth of that statement.
Last Wednesday the temperatures were in the high 60s. Thursday, temps were still on the high side for this time of year, but there were torrential rains. In fact, it rained so hard in such a short period of time that the Chestatee River and many of the county’s creeks and streams either overflowed or came close to overflowing their banks.
Friday, temperatures plummeted and Lumpkin County had 4-5 inches of snow on Saturday.
The sun came out Sunday and melted much of the snow, and Monday’s cold rain finished it off. And more rain is predicted through Thursday—possibly with thunder storm activity.
Meanwhile, Jonquils and red bud trees, Forsythia and other flowering shrubs are blooming.


The mix of what could well be termed severe weather made for a busy later part of the week for city of Dahlonega, Lumpkin County government and school employees.
Thursday’s over-four-inches of rainfall flooded parts of Golden Avenue and elsewhere in the county, causing the school system to delay the start of classes by two hours Friday.
Thursday itself “worked out almost perfectly,” said Lynn White, Transportation Director for the school system. "In the morning it started after we delivered the kids to school, and by dismissal the water had already pretty much receded.”
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Rob Brown called for a two-hour delay Thursday night. He said two factors played into the decision.
“One, we needed more time to assess the situation with rising water levels and didn't know if the situation would get worse through [Thursday] night, and two, we wanted our bus drivers, parents, students, and staff to have the benefit of driving in daylight with better visibility,” he said.
White said she was grateful for the Friday morning delay.
“We were worried about the wind bringing down trees overnight,” she said. “We only had one down Friday morning that we couldn’t get around, on the north side of Bert Road in the Little Mountain area. But I’m glad it was daylight,” she said.
“Whether it be flooding like we experienced last week or snow like this weekend, our first consideration is the safety and security of our students and staff. If we believe road conditions pose a significant danger for our school buses and/or car drivers, we will minimize travel. In more extreme situations, we must close our schools,” Brown said.


While school buses were able to avoid the worst of the flood, Lumpkin’s Water & Sewerage Authority employees got plenty wet Thursday.
The Sherwood Forest Subdivision was placed under a Boil Water Advisory after the rain began seeping under the door of the well house that supplies homes with water.
It was “a precautionary measure,” said Director Sean Phipps. “We sent a crew out, but the water was up to the door, and it wasn’t safe to send anyone in. There’s electrical equipment in the well house, and we wouldn’t have been able to see if anything was wrong or not."
But the pump never lost pressure, and homes were able to use a pump higher up the hill. By Friday the water had receded.
“We took samples, and once they checked out OK we lifted the advisory,” Phipps said.
Crews also checked and cleared the culverts to be sure nothing would impede the flow of water in the future.
“We hope the volume and intensity of rain doesn’t happen again,” Phipps said.


The road department and sheriff’s office, as usual, bore the brunt of the burden, especially when it came to Friday’s snow.
Deputies responded to a total of 147 calls throughout the day as the inches began to pile up, according to Sheriff Stacy Jarrard.
“We had trucks out treating and plowing Saturday morning,” said Public Works Director Larry Reiter. “By 10 p.m. we had all the main roads done. It was too dangerous to put big trucks on the secondary roads. Mother Nature took care of it Sunday morning.”
Reiter said there were lots of cars stuck in the ditches, on shoulders and actually in the road.
“There was one brand new pickup truck on Oak Grove that was half on the shoulder and halfway into the lane Sunday morning. I guess whoever it was just decided to walk home,” he said.
Nearly 120 man-hours and 130 tons of salt/gravel mix went into Saturday’s snow, said Road Department Supervisor David Robinson.
Robinson estimates the cost to the county in labor, materials and equipment totals over $1,300.
Thursday’s rain caused some problems for the road department as well, but “we actually fared pretty well,” he said. “We only lost about eight trees county-wide. Wahoo Creek Road [a gravel road] lost some gravel, and Winters Mountain had some shoulders wash out. I was amazed there wasn’t more damage. But we may get more before this week is out.”
In an effort to keep road damage to a minimum, road department workers were out cleaning culverts Monday.
“We’re trying to clean as many as we can. That’s about all you can do,” Robinson said. “And hope for a little sunshine.”