By Stan Welch
As winter storm Pax bears down on the Upstate, personnel from the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, the Emergency Preparedness Department, municipal law enforcement, state agencies and civic and religious organizations have been gathering to coordinate and organize their efforts.
Taylor Jones, Director of the county’s Emergency Preparedness efforts, told The Journal Monday that a wide variety of groups and agencies met Monday afternoon to synchronize and organize the actions and reactions that will almost certainly be required as what appears to be a major winter storm moves across north Georgia and into Anderson County and points both north and south.
Schools throughout Anderson County closed on Tuesday, with a decision on further closings slated for 5 p.m. Tuesday afternoon. By then, officials expect to have a better sense of the storm’s power an impact. Jones said that, as is so often the case in the Upstate, the I-85 corridor promises to be the line of demarcation between the heavy precipitation and accumulation, and the more manageable scenarios.
“It is not certain, but it is possible that 8-10 inches of snow and other wintry precipitation might accumulate to the north of the interstate, with significantly lesser amounts to the south,” said Jones.
Since Monday, forecasts have changed in terms of when significant accumulations will begin, with the heavier amounts moving into the area late Tuesday and into Wednesday. Light snow, however began falling overnight and into Tuesday morning.
Unfortunately, the frozen precipitation is expected to be preceded by rain, which makes efforts to pretreat the roads for freezing conditions almost futile. “We are hoping that DOT may get a short window to try and prepare some of the major roads, but the rain undoes most of the good in such circumstances,” sad Jones.
Anderson County Sheriff’s spokesperson Lt. Sheila Cole reported that the Sheriff’s Office is working closely with all the other pertinent agencies and organizations. “We have worked very hard, like everyone else has, to ensure that our citizens will be safe during what promises to be a significant weather event” said Cole.
Communications among the agencies and organizations, as well as between authorities and the citizens is key. Several steps have been taken to improve those communications.
For example, the reverse 911 system will be used to send alerts and important information to citizens, while the 211 system has been activated to allow citizens to report non-emergency situations, as well as obtain information, without tying up the 911 system.
For example, if someone were to need prescription drugs, or need to know where and when shelters will open, they can call 211 to get assistance. Citizens can also go to the county’s website at andersoncountysc.org or http://andersonsc.safetown for information concerning the storm.
Jones also explained that cars which become disabled, or stranded, will be flagged with either crime scene tape or surveyor’s tape once they have been cleared by law enforcement.
This will hopefully prevent return trips to check the same vehicles, because well meaning citizens continue to report them.
“I expect we’ll have plenty to do without doing things two or three times”, said Jones.
County Administrator Rusty Burns urged people to stay off the roads as much as possible, especially once accumulations start to build.
“Everyone is working very hard to make sure our emergency and public safety resources are on the same page. But we ask that people use their own good judgment to keep themselves safe.”
In Williamston, the town was operating on a normal schedule Tuesday, following the county’s lead. Mayor Mack Durham said that having municipalities coordinating with county officials would help eliminate confusion.
Durham said town employees did not make any special efforts, as state and county resources are put into effect for sanding main roads and bridges. Durham said the town would place sand on a icy spots if there was a need.
Trinity Baptist Church was on standby as an emergency shelter should the need arise, according to the Mayor.
Should an emergency situation arise, residents should call 911. Non emegrency requests for service in Wililamston can be called in to 260-4444.