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Old Man Winter shrugs at Bryan County
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Small icicles hang from the playground equipment at Richmond Hill Elementary School on Wednesday following what was originally predicted to be a major ice storm. While there was a wintry mix of precipitation and frigid temperatures, little ice accumulated in Bryan County. - photo by Julia Harison

Winter storm Leon may have had more bark than bite locally, but Bryan County was well prepared to handle what might have come, the head of the county’s emergency services said.

“I would say Bryan County did an excellent job monitoring the storm, (and) preparing and responding to a few ice situations on a couple bridges” said Freddy Howell, Bryan County Emergency Services chief. “We tried to inform everyone ahead of time to stay off the roads and shelter in place, and I believe those efforts were good.”

Anticipating icy roads and possible power outages, most local, state and federal government offices were closed Wednesday.
Schools were shut down both Wednesday and Thursday and a number of major employers in the area told workers to stay home.

In a press release explaining the decision to keep schools closed a second day, Bryan County Schools Superintendent Dr. Paul Brooksher said safety was important.

“Any type of ice on the roads creates an environment that is unsafe to transport students,” Brooksher said. “The weather and conditions may vary throughout different parts of our county, but our decision must be based on where the conditions are potentially the worst.

“With almost 900 employees and over 8,250 students, safety is our No. 1 priority.”

Not everyone escaped Leon’s wrath, however. Anna Chafin, executive director of the Development Authority of Bryan County, was attending meetings in Atlanta when the storm hit.

She said she didn’t have it as bad as many and had motel rooms to go to, but she still got hung up in traffic for several hours.

There were apparently no incidents of widespread power outages in the county. Coastal Electric’s Mark Bolton said one customer in Tivoli Marsh in South Bryan lost power for about 10 minutes.

Coastal Electric had contracted 30 additional crew members prior to the storm to help in the event lines of downed power lines and power outages and put the crew up in a Richmond Hill motel. They “slept the night without incident,” Bolton said.

Howell said cooperation among emergency personnel, the media and residents was important.

“All Bryan County agencies worked with both cities and the state agencies before and during the storm and it was a good joint effort,” he said, noting media helped by keeping residents informed. “(And) citizens did their part by staying off the roads also.

Overall, Bryan County was blessed.”
He also said working in concert with other agencies helps emergency personnel prepare for future storms.

“It does help us get better prepared for all types of future situations we might have to deal with,” Howell said. “It forces all state and local agencies to work together to accomplish the task at hand. We work together, but not on a daily basis on major incidents like this.”

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