Chairman Buzz Ahrens said during the commissioners’ work session Tuesday afternoon that while there are things to learn from the storm, Cherokee County did a “terrific job” overall.
“I know there are follow ups. I know things are going forward on debriefing and ‘What do we do differently, if anything?’ And I understand you can’t gear up for the once-in-three-year situation,” the chairman said. “But, inevitably, we learn something each time.”
Cherokee County Fire Chief Tim Prather said he was just happy nobody died.
“I really thought we would lose somebody that night, they’d be stranded out in that cold …,” Prather told commissioners. “I really expected loss of life. To my knowledge, there were no serious injuries. We got through it uneventful.”
Ahrens said he had been watching the timeline of the storm early last week but never expected it to hit when it did or with as much force.
“Mother Nature kind of moved it up a couple hours,” Ahrens said. “That combination of timing, cold … God was not happy that day.”
The chairman said he was out of town in south Georgia when the storm hit and he stayed at a hotel in Macon for two days.
Commissioner Harry Johnston said he was caught off guard by the storm as well.
“The night before, I had watched the weather that said we could expect the north metro area to get a dusting if anything,” he said.
Prather said part of what made the sudden ordeal less devastating was help from the community.
“I think it’s safe to say that the citizens actually stepped up,” he said. “We couldn’t get to everybody, and I think this is a classic example of citizens doing their part in helping us get through this.”
Like the fire department, Cliff Harden, Cherokee roads and bridges director, told commissioners his office had a tough go of it during and in the aftermath of the storm.
“We have four trucks (and) 1,200 miles, about 3,000 roads, to cover,” Harden told the commission. “I think we did a great job with what we had to work with, and we cleaned up pretty good, considering some of the adjoining counties. Everything’s relative.”
Roads were, however, one of the biggest concerns for residents in Cherokee County, just as all over the metro Atlanta region, where countless cars sat abandoned or wrecked along the side of the highways, interstates and local roads.
In Cherokee County, Harden said he decided against plowing some roads for safety reasons.
“You can’t plow it until it thaws out and melts,” he said. “You scrape off what little traction you got there and you leave a film, you’ve got ice that’s like glass.”
But even with road workers on the scene throughout the county, there were numerous accidents reported. In just a five-hour span early Tuesday, authorities said more than 130 accidents were reported on various roads from the Salacoa community to Woodstock.
Prather said even the fire department wasn’t immune to accidents during the storm.
“We had four vehicles involved in minor accidents, (but) no workers’ comp,” the fire chief told commissioners, as he knocked on wood.
A Cherokee E-911 employee added during the meeting that in just a 48-hour span during and after the storm, the call center received more than 7,600 calls, about triple the normal call volume.
“I can’t imagine being in that 911 center,” Ahrens said.
Over the course of the storm, Prather said the fire department responded to 257 calls, the majority for medical reasons.
“We couldn’t track everything we’d done. Our guys did an outstanding job. We got through it without injury,” Prather said of his firefighters. “Just some minor damage to some trucks, no injury to personnel and no life lost through the citizens. (There’s) a lot of room for improvement on some other things, but we got through it really unscathed.”
Also Tuesday, the board of commissioners:
• Held an executive session to discuss personnel, land acquisition or disposal and/or pending or threatened litigation;
• Voted unanimously — with Commissioner Ray Gunnin absent — to approve a construction contract for phase two of the fire training center with CWI Construction in a total requested amount $1,070,900;
• Unanimously approved a construction contract with Vertical Earth for a Steels Bridge Road reconstruction project in the amount of $715,124;
• Voted unanimously to approve a contract with LAI Engineering for completing plan updates and revisions for the Hames Road improvement project in the amount of $33,860;
• Voted unanimously to authorize the county manager to execute an agreement with Motorola for maintenance and service on equipment at the 911 center for two years in the amount of $315, 288;
• Unanimously approved buying a tractor from Mason Tractor and Equipment for the Cherokee Recreation and Parks Authority with $21,815 from parks bond funds;
• Unanimously approved buying amenities for Hobgood Park from Bliss Products with $41,378 from parks bond funds;
• Voted unanimously to approve an agreement allowing Evidence Based Associates to give counseling services to youth at the direction of Cherokee County Juvenile Courts;
• Unanimously approved a contract with Virtual Graffiti in the amount of $77,459 for three years of computer services; and
• Discussed a potential historic preservation ordinance and whether or not the county could indefinitely stop demolition of historic structures.