Spring officially begins on March 20 – and only a few weeks later, 81 golf pros will return to TPC Sugarloaf for the PGA”s Greater Gwinnett Championship. But today I want to write about snow and ice and planning ahead for emergencies.
I”m a big believer in planning for the future, but sometimes we need to look at the past to learn how we can improve. Two winter storms in two weeks gave us that opportunity. A February ice storm offered a second chance just two weeks after the metro area completely shut down on January 28. Gwinnett fared better than most in both storms, thanks to luck, geography, and good planning.
The first storm hit on a Monday during the work day. Roads in downtown Atlanta and in nearby parts of metro Atlanta quickly filled beyond capacity as everyone tried to get home. Public safety vehicles were trapped in the gridlock, as were school buses.
I was in downtown Atlanta and experienced the situation firsthand. As my husband drove our vehicle inching along surface streets to escape, I was wearing out my cell phone. Road crews were unable to re-treat the trouble spots. Once we reached Gwinnett, travel improved.
Fewer were vehicles attempting to travel the same roads and a little less snow fell here. These factors combined with good work by our County employees and coordination across departmental lines helped keep traffic moving.
February”s storm arrived in two phases, the second bringing heavy icing overnight. This time, everyone took more precautions. Schools and just about everything else remained closed and, in true Southern style, most people stayed home and waited for the ice to melt.
At our Emergency Operations Center in Lawrenceville, staff worked around the clock to ensure public safety by coordinating transportation, law enforcement, fire, emergency medical, the health department, disaster agencies like the Red Cross, water, and other utilities across Gwinnett”s 437 square miles.
The Gwinnett County Department of Transportation had 18 salt and sand trucks, six plows, and 50 people clearing 2,750 miles of roads as others kept signals working at 680 intersections.
Gwinnett Police had more than 3,000 calls in 48 hours, while Gwinnett Fire responded to 883 calls, including medical emergencies, that week. Every possible ambulance and fire truck was on the road during the state of emergency. Other areas were involved, too. For example, the Sheriff”s Office made sure work crews were fed during their shifts. There were scattered power outages when trees fell on lines, but thankfully our water and sewer systems were unaffected.
We all put into practice a lot of things we already knew. Don”t take unnecessary risks. Cancel non-essential activities early. Stock your vehicle and home with emergency supplies, stay off the roads if you can, use safety precautions if the power goes out, check on your neighbors, and make sure your insurance is paid up!
As winter comes to an end, it is worth noting that our tornado risk is highest in March and April and the Atlantic hurricane season starts in June. As long as we remember the lessons from this winter, we will be better prepared to make it through future storms of all types.
I salute all our hard-working first-responders, everyone who works backstage to keep basic services operating, and all who found ways to help themselves and others stay safe and survive the stormy times. You make me so proud of Gwinnett County!