With rain expected to turn to sleet and snow in north Georgia over the next two days, Gov. Nathan Deal this afternoon declared a state of emergency for 45 Georgia counties.
Monday morning he had issued an emergency declaration for 14 North Georgia counties: Murray, Fannin, Gilmer, Union, Towns, Pickens, Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Cherokee, Forsyth, Hall, Banks and Jackson counties.
The expanded state of emergency now includes these additional 31 counties: Dade, Walker, Catoosa, Whitfield, Chattooga, Gordon, Floyd, Bartow, Polk, Paulding, Cobb, Fulton, Gwinnett, Barrow, Haralson, Carroll, Douglas, DeKalb, Clarke, Oconee, Oglethorpe, Wilkes, Walton, Rabun, Habersham, Stephens, Franklin, Hart, Madison, Elbert and Lincoln counties.
The National Weather Service issued a Winter Storm Watch for Monday evening through Tuesday afternoon, which prompted Deal to put emergency response agencies on alert and begin storm preparations.
“I have directed the State Patrol, Department of Transportation and Department of Natural Resources to begin moving assets toward areas where the snow and ice are expected, and I have issued a ‘warning order’ for the National Guard -- an advance notice to personnel of the possibility of a ‘call up’ for a state mission,” said Deal.
A storm that left ice and 2 inches of snow in parts of Georgia, including the Atlanta area late last month, wreaked havoc. Drivers spent the night in their vehicles trapped on interstates, students were kept overnight in schools because buses couldn't negotiate the slick streets.
In response, Deal announced immediate reforms for how the state communicates with Georgians when under a winter storm warning; he also named the Governor’s Severe Winter Weather Warning and Preparedness Task Force, which will advise on implementation of reforms and suggest short-term and long-term solutions.
“Effective immediately, a storm warning will trigger a message to cell phones in targeted areas, as in the Amber Alert system, and advise against road travel,” said Deal in a news release. “We will go one step further with school superintendents by emailing them weather condition updates, so that they have the most up-to-date information when determining whether to close schools.
“We will overhaul the state emergency app with shelter information, alternative transportation routes and other emergency-related information. Lastly, as storms approach, I have ordered Georgia Emergency Management Agency to consult with local meteorologists on current weather modeling and predictions.