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First snow of 2014 freezes county
1BIG Local families know how to have fun in the snow. From left Elizabeth Land  Skylar Land  11  and Hope Bennett  13

Winter blew through Dawson County with a mighty force last week.

Three and a half inches of snow fell on the county Tuesday morning and afternoon. Forty accidents were reported during the height of the storm, Dawson County Emergency Services Chief Lanier Swafford said, but only two people were transported to the hospital with injuries.

Highways 183 and 53 iced over quickly, causing cars to overturn or stall and tractor-trailers to jackknife.

183 was basically a parking lot, E-911 Operator Tasha Tolbert said, because of the jackknifed tractor-trailers.

Tolbert said the E-911 office flooded with calls from noon to 4 p.m.

The phones were ringing, we were answering, and they were still ringing, Tolbert said.

The majority of the calls were from people reporting overturned, stalled or wrecked cars and icy conditions.

E-911 Director Debra Wimpy said the center received about 300 calls in the 24-hour period of the storm, between Tuesday and Wednesday. We get maybe 50 or 60 calls on a bad day, she said.

But the influx of calls apparently didnt faze the experienced Dawson County 911 team.

We have a great crew, Wimpy said. Everybody put forth that little extra, the night shift people came in early and brought their groceries to stay for days.

Sheriff Billy Carlisle said the sheriffs office planned ahead by preparing its four-wheel-drive vehicles the day before the storm hit. Carlisle said he was pleased with how his staff handled the winter weather. They worked hard and stayed as long as it took, Carlisle said.

In fact, Carlisle said in a staff meeting Monday that department heads asked the sheriff to look into putting cots at the station should another snowstorm threaten. That says a lot about the employees we have, he said. The employees stepped up, they knew what needed to be done and they were prepared to stay.

Carlisle said he is looking on the states surplus-materials website to see if he can find cots that would be comfortable and easy to store.

County Commission Chair Mike Berg said the countys public works used 70 tons of salt to treat the roads. The department also ordered an additional 80 tons in case another winter storm hits. County crews had their work cut out for them, and they put in a lot of long hours, Berg said, noting that the county has 203 miles of paved roads and 70 miles of gravel roads.

We got out in front of the storm and took care of the roads. We had all hands on deck, he said.

Dawsonville Mayor James Grogan said the citys public works department maintained operations around the clock to keep city streets safe. Roads were scraped, sand and salt applied and city streets were in pretty good shape, he said. Grogan also said the city didnt experience any water-main problems.

The storm was not the worst Grogan has seen. We had eight inches of sleet on the ground and the 1960s boys basketball team was due in Macon for an early afternoon game, Grogan recalled. We made it just in time to suit up and win our first game.

Swafford said he was pleased the community took proactive steps to prepare for the winter weather. People got home and stayed home, he said. The community as a whole rallied as always.

But not all residents were able to get home. Chamber of Commerce President Christie Haynes had been at the state capitol in Atlanta when the storm hit. I got on the road and had never truly experienced anything like that in my life, Haynes said.

Haynes sat in traffic on Ga. 400 for more than eight hours. After six hours in traffic, my gas light came on, she said. She exited 400, but had to rely on strangers to push her car up the ramp, which had become icy. It truly reminded me of the faith in people, because so many people did things they didnt have to do, she said.

After Haynes fueled her car, she decided to stay with a nearby friend Tuesday night instead of attempting the drive to Dawsonville. It was intense, and I dont ever want to do that again, she said.

By the end of the week, temperatures had risen into the 50s.

Todays weather calls for a 70 percent chance of showers with a high of 55 degrees. Thursday calls for partly sunny skies and a high of 50 degrees, and Friday a 40 percent possibility of showers with a high of 47 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.