28 Georgia counties under state of emergency for winter storm

Ware County closes Courthouse, government offices

By Ashley Harding - Reporter, Elizabeth Campbell - Reporter, Corley Peel - Reporter

After the National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning, Georgia. Gov. Nathan Deal on Tuesday declared a state of emergency for 28 counties in the coastal region. 

The counties include: Appling, Atkinson, Bacon, Brantley, Bryan, Bulloch, Camden, Candler, Coffee, Charlton, Chatham, Clinch, Echols, Effingham, Evans, Glynn, Jeff Davis, Lanier, Lowndes, Liberty, Long, McIntosh, Pierce, Screven, Tattnall, Toombs, Ware and Wayne. ​

READ: Executive order declaring state of emergency in 28 Georgia counties

The executive order will be in effect from Wednesday through 11:59 p.m. Friday.

The winter storm warning was issued through Wednesday for all of Southeast Georgia and portions of the Suwannee Valley and I-10 corridor. 

Cold temperatures will continue through Saturday. The National Weather Service said hard freezes are anticipated for all of Southeast Georgia on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights. Wind chills in the teens are anticipated during the overnight and early-morning hours from Wednesday night through early Saturday morning. 

Conditions are classic for a possible snow event for Southeast Georgia on Wednesday. 

The snow-maker could depend on how close a developing gale gets to Florida. A storm is expected to develop north of the Bahamas, sending rain to the area Wednesday. But the cold air may be just deep enough to allow for snow on the back edge of the rain. The most likely locations for snow will be in southern Georgia around Waycross to Nahunta and near Brunswick, with some flurries in northern Florida, primarily north of I-10 and west of Nassau County.

The Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency urged residents to protect the three Ps: People, pets and plants.

VIEW: NWS watches, warnings, winter weather forecast

Ware County

In Ware County, emergency management officials will have sand ready in case roads and bridges turn icy. Waycross has four sand trucks on standby in case the roads get too dangerous for drivers.

The city does not anticipate on using the sand trucks Tuesday night, and will decide when to use them as the weather unfolds.

According to City Manager Raphel Maddox, the city of Waycross will close all offices Wednesday. Maddox said the decision was made as a safety precaution for all city residents and employees. Employees who are deemed essential will still need to report to city office buildings in Waycross. 

People were bundled up in jackets Tuesday as they headed into a Waycross tractor supply store. Jessie McGriff bought one of the last heaters the store had.

"This morning, when I got home from work, it was just ridiculously cold," McGriff said. "(I) walk in and see my breath. I was, like, 'No, that's just too much.'"

Empty shelves could be seen in the area of Tractor Supply Company that's normally stocked full of heaters. Other items, such as hay, were also going fast. On Tuesday, the store was running low on horse blankets and it was sold out of propane.

Ware County Emergency Management will have a warming shelter open until 8 a.m. Friday at the Waycross Auditorium, which is located at 865 Pendleton St.

The shelter opened at 4 p.m. Tuesday with about 30 cots. But there are roughly 100 more cots on standby if needed. 

warming shelter

The city manager said limited food and beverages will be available at the shelter. People are also reminded to bring any medication they may need.

"We'll have coffee, limited food," Maddox told News4Jax on Tuesday. "We'll have some firefighters and EMTs here throughout the night just to ensure that everything is safe."

The shelter is unable to accommodate animals. For more information, call 912-287-4499.

Hope Transportation will provide services to and from the shelter. Anyone who needs a ride can call 912-288-4582. 

County officials remind residents to protect pets, plants and pipes.

"We want our citizens to stay off the streets, stay home and stay in a warm place," Maddox said. "If you know of anybody who doesn't have a warm place, please get them to the city auditorium as soon as possible.”

Edward Strickland, who was born and raised in South Georgia, wasn't shy about his feelings on the cold weather.

"I don't like it all. I'm a warm-weather guy. It chills me to the bone, really is what it does," Strickland said. "It's miserable to me."

Strickland said if there is snow or ice this week, he'll be staying inside, keeping warm and dry.

Waycross resident Robert Burney and his grandson did some last-minute shopping Tuesday to prepare for the freezing temperatures.

"We're pretty well hunkered down and prepared for it. We've got our heat set up. All of our spigots and everything (are) wrapped up good, and we're draining that ones that need to be drained," Burney said.

Wednesday could be the first time Burney's grandson sees snow in Waycross, but the grandfather said they'll try to stay inside where it's warm.

"He'll love it," Burney said. "I'll have to keep after him to keep him in."

Hoods, hats and gloves are highly recommended if people have to go outside Tuesday night and Wednesday. 

Glynn County

As a result of the state of emergency declared by Gov. Deal, officials said, Glynn County offices will be closed on Wednesday and a delayed opening is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday. The closure includes all offices in the Harold Pate building, Glynn County Courthouse, Glynn County Historic Courthouse and Recreation and Parks throughout the community. Brunswick City Hall will also follow these hours of closure.  

Glynn County officials said residents should be prepared to shelter in place. All Public Safety services, including Glynn County Fire, Glynn County Sheriff and Glynn County Police will remain open throughout the event to protect citizens. Glynn County Emergency Management will be monitoring conditions from the Emergency Operation Center and helping to organize any response that may be needed.

Republic Waste Services will also be suspended for Wednesday and it is unknown when an updated schedule will be released.

A warming shelter has been opened at First United Methodist Church at 1400 Norwich St until 7 a.m. Thursday. Cots will not be provided at this location. The Well will operate a daytime shelter as usual from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

State and local road crews and Georgia Power/Okefenoke Rural Electric Membership Corporation have resources in place to respond as quickly as possible. Be prepared for a loss of power. Ice and snow buildup on trees can cause them to fall and damage power lines. Have battery-powered lighting, plenty of water, ready-to-eat foods, and warm clothing or blankets on hand. Do not use gas heaters or generators indoors without proper ventilation.

As of 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, the Glynn County Board of Commissioners said no roads or bridges, including the F.J. Torres Causeway, are scheduled to be closed.

The Glynn County Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency offered the following tips for deal with the upcoming winter weather and extreme cold fronts headed toward the area:

  • Limit any unnecessary travel during cold/freezing conditions. With the amount of moisture present, black ice is extremely hard to spot and can cause serious injuries or accidents.
  • If driving, be sure to clear all windows and mirrors to avoid limited vision and blind spots.
  • If you do have to travel, plan to travel during the warmest part of the day.
  • To avoid broken or bursting pipes in your home, run a faucet at a slow drip and slight stream. This will keep activity in your pipes and avoid freezing. 
  • 911 is for emergencies only. Please call the appropriate authorities for power outages, water outages, or other non-emergency issues. 
  • Don't forget pets. Please bring your pets indoors to a nice warm dry area with food and water.

Due to anticipated inclement weather, all Glynn County School System employees will not be required to report to work until 10 a.m. Wednesday. The delayed report time will provide an opportunity to assess road conditions and help to ensure that all staff can travel safely to and from their work sites. Any change to the 10 a.m. report time will be announced as soon as possible Wednesday morning. School will resume for all students Thursday, with normal work schedules and school hours. Due to the winter holiday, students were not scheduled to return to school until Thursday.

Due to the predicted weather conditions in the area Wednesday morning, Jekyll Island Authority offices, amenities and operations will not open/start until 11 a.m.  

With Jekyll Island Authority employees traveling from various surrounding areas, officials said, each individual employee must consider their own situation. Employees who feel conditions are not safe for their particular travel should contact their supervisor to make individual arrangements.  

Camden County

The National Weather Service communicated to Camden County emergency management officials that Camden County is due for a “severe weather event” between 4 a.m. and 4 p.m. Wednesday.

The Jacksonville NWS office predicts conditions may be favorable for the formation of ice on roadways and bridges. Because everyone’s circumstances are different with regard to the distance they must travel and the roads on which they must travel, some employees may have difficulty reporting to work, so Wednesday will be a voluntary workday for Camden County Schools employees.

Since many who can travel safety would prefer to work and avoid yet another makeup day, anyone who might experience difficulty reporting to work due to weather conditions on Wednesday will be allowed to remain at home, Camden County Schools said.

Those who must choose to be absent from work should communicate with their supervisors about their plans. Officials with Camden County Schools said Tuesday afternoon that plans are to return to the normal schedule for students and staff on Thursday.

After monitoring the latest forecast for the coastal area, county officials said they have decided to close all Camden County offices on Wednesday.

Officials asked Camden County residents to continue to monitor the weather conditions through the National Weather Service. Regular updates will also be posted to the Camden County website and the Facebook pages for Camden County Government and Camden County Emergency Management Agency

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Georgia health departments closing

Due to anticipated severe winter weather conditions, all health departments and public health facilities in Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long and McIntosh counties will be closed on Wednesday.

Facilities are expected to reopen at 1 p.m. Thursday.

Georgia health officials apologized for any inconvenience and said updates would be posted to the department's website: gachd.org

Copyright 2018 by WJXT News4Jax. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.