Cherokee digs out: Residents still picking up pieces from storm that paralyzed county
by Joshua Sharpe
January 31, 2014 12:00 AM | 4122 views | 1 1 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
More than 30 abandoned cars line a hill Thursday on Little Refuge Road in Waleska after Tuesday’s snow storm. Thousands of vehicles were reported abandoned during the storm. <br>Staff/Todd Hull
More than 30 abandoned cars line a hill Thursday on Little Refuge Road in Waleska after Tuesday’s snow storm. Thousands of vehicles were reported abandoned during the storm.
Staff/Todd Hull
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Cherokee Emergency Operations Center Director Robby Westbrook and Deputy Director Renee Cornelison keep a close eye on traffic and potential weather problems Thursday. <br>Staff/Todd Hull
Cherokee Emergency Operations Center Director Robby Westbrook and Deputy Director Renee Cornelison keep a close eye on traffic and potential weather problems Thursday.
Staff/Todd Hull
slideshow
Canton resident Jo Harris ties his pickup truck to the front end of his friend David Toney’s car as they attempt to rescue it from a ditch along Highway 140 north of Reinhardt University on Thursday. <br>Staff/Todd Hull
Canton resident Jo Harris ties his pickup truck to the front end of his friend David Toney’s car as they attempt to rescue it from a ditch along Highway 140 north of Reinhardt University on Thursday.
Staff/Todd Hull
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With more than 48 hours having passed since the first flakes of snow began to fall Tuesday, Cherokee County was still recovering Thursday from the winter storm that froze the county, and the region, dead in its tracks.

As of early Thursday, countless abandoned cars still lined the sides of roads throughout the county and calls to 911 and county offices, because of the aftermath of the weather, continued to come in, even as temperatures began to rise. Some people also remained in makeshift shelters around Cherokee on Thursday morning, authorities said.

All major thoroughfares in the county were passable, but any unnecessary travel was being discouraged, as the roads still had patches of ice that treatment and sunlight couldn’t help yet, said Geoff Morton, county engineer.

The rising temperatures were, however, helping get the roads cleared.

“Our biggest help right now is the temperature is above freezing,” Morton said. “That is doing a lot more than our treatment.”

Morton said the county was getting “covered up with calls” from people reporting problems on the roads, and those concerns were being addressed as workers were out treating secondary roads and the main entrances to subdivisions to keep drivers from sliding as they leave home.

Another help to the county would be if those drivers with abandoned cars came to pick them as soon as possible, Morton added.

Lt. Jay Baker, spokesman for the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office, said it was the cars left in the road that were a concern.

“More and more people are beginning to drive the roadways and, as the ice clears, vehicle speeds are going to increase,” Baker said in a Thursday morning news release. “It is imperative that abandoned vehicles be removed as soon as possible.”

Baker said the cars that were blocking the road were to begin getting towed away at 4 p.m., though the numerous vehicles that sat along the shoulders and in the ditches could stay a bit longer. Those with cars towed were asked to call (678) 493-4080 to see where they were taken, and the drivers with cars sitting off the road were asked to start making arrangements to get them, Baker added.

As the county was working to keep the roads clear, things seemed to be calming down in terms of how many people needed assistance from public safety workers.

From Tuesday at noon to Thursday at 1:45 p.m., Cherokee E-911 received 7,635 calls, according to the county. Of those calls, 4,508 came in Tuesday, and 2,170 on Wednesday. By 1:45 p.m. Thursday, residents’ need for help at least appeared to be falling, with about 957 calls coming in so far.

In Woodstock, things were also getting back to normal, said Woodstock Police spokeswoman Brittany Duncan.

“Today has been a steady and somewhat — knock on wood — quiet day,” Duncan said Thursday afternoon. “Business is kind of normal.”

Duncan said the police department wasn’t receiving too many calls, and that major roads in the city were passable, though it varied with secondary roads.

“Our public works department, they’ve done an outstanding job,” she said. “There’s still a few stranded vehicles on Highway 92. I believe last night the ones that were still in the roadway Neese Towing came and towed them, just to make sure the road was passable today.”

Duncan said the cars along the side of the road could stay a bit longer, and the ones that had to be towed were towed free of charge.

But while it was business as usual Thursday, Duncan recalled how things did get bad for a while Tuesday.

One driver had such a hard time on the road that his car ended up getting swallowed by a sinkhole. Duncan said the man was driving off Towne Lake Parkway, when he slid and hit a fire hydrant that spewed water and after some time — after the driver was reportedly out of the car — opened the hole, swallowing the car up.

The city of Canton also had an unusual incident Tuesday night when a tractor-trailer carrying live chickens overturned on Highway 20, forcing the road to close, said Pacer Cordry, spokesman for Canton Police.

Cordry said the road was later cleared and reopened, like all other major roads in Canton, though the aftermath of the wreck still remained Thursday morning.

“I drove by it this morning and it was upright,” Cordry said. “There were two chicken trucks sitting in the same spot. There was one truck with a bunch of dead chickens. There was another one with some live chickens.”

While some odd sights remain, Cordry said things in Canton had largely calmed down. As of Thursday afternoon, the emergency operations center run by the city’s police and fire departments was closed, and officers had returned to working their usual shifts.

“The call volume between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, it kind of tapered off,” Cordry said. “The last 24 hours, our call volume hasn’t been that high. But we have been busy reporting to accidents.”

Like other agencies around metro Atlanta, the Canton Police Department received criticism for response during and after the storm. But Cordry said that was undue.

“A lot of comments I read on Facebook (said), ‘I haven’t seen a Canton Police vehicle in two days,’” Cordry said. “The reason for that is we’re in unmarked pickup trucks. We still have officers out in four-wheel-drive trucks that belong to the city that are unmarked.”

The officers are responding to calls in the trucks as a safety measure, because many roads may still have some issues, Cordry said.

But for the most part, the roads have improved from Tuesday night.

On Tuesday night, all major roads in Canton closed down, and hotels and motels in the city began to fill up with people who were stranded, Cordry said.

As of Thursday afternoon, Cordry said all roads had been reopened, with the exception of a small portion of Highway 140 near Lower Scott Mill Road, which was reported to be open later Thursday.

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M. Garland
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January 31, 2014
Most politicians in Georgia would rather be stupid than wrong.
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