“The big difference in this time and last was the warning,” said Chief Cherokee County Marshal and E-911 Director Chris Collett on Thursday. “The citizens heeded the warning and stayed off of the road for the most part. This allowed public safety to far more easily do their jobs. It also allowed public works access to clear roads. Although this storm was far more intense than the last, the combination of an early warning along with cooperation from our citizens has made the response to this storm a success.”
The decision by residents to hole up at home has apparently paid off, with only 19 car accidents reported from Monday at 6 p.m. to early Thursday morning, showing a stark contrast to the late January snowstorm, which earned the name “Snow Jam 2014” for its overwhelming impact on traffic and countless car accidents.
It’s “quite remarkable considering the amount of snow and ice,” said Lt. Jay Baker, spokesman for the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday. “Compared to the snow event two weeks ago, which stranded hundreds, we are quite pleased. Much of that is simply a result of timing, but it appears citizens were well prepared for this event and stayed at home.”
Even though accidents were down as of Thursday morning, Baker warned that more drivers could find themselves with problems if they got too confident too soon.
“There are still plenty of bad areas that can be treacherous,” Baker said, adding there was a good amount of snow overnight Wednesday. “Traffic is already picking up and we expect to have more accidents today than in the last two days combined.”
At Cherokee E-911, things are also quite different from the last snow storm, with well under half the calls this time around, according to Tammy Dodd, a shift supervisor at the call center.
As of early morning Thursday, 2,698 calls had come into the 911 center since Monday at 6 p.m., with more than 1,300 of those being Wednesday. The total number shows a drastic cut from the January storm, when the center got more than 7,600 calls in a 48-hour period.
Dodd said the majority of the calls coming in during this week’s storms have been for injuries or sickness.
At Northside Hospital-Cherokee, spokesman Donnie Henriques said staff members anticipated the need for medical attention during the storms and took precautions. Henriques said necessary staff made arrangements to stay overnight at the Canton hospital or at nearby hotels.
“All essential personnel were able to get in, and the ones that were not able to get in, they sent vehicles to go get them to make sure there was coverage,” Henriques, who is also mayor of Woodstock, said Thursday. “As far as I know, nothing earth-shattering has happened.”
For some patients, though, the 911 director said their trip home after being discharged from the hospital was too dangerous and county marshals had to give them a ride.
“Other than that, we tried to keep our own vehicles off of the road as much as possible,” Collett added.
Most of the other calls coming into the 911 center were from people reporting ice, trees down, power line issues, or power outages, Dodd said.
Electricity might have so far been one of the biggest issues for the Cherokee County. Baker said the Cherokee County Emergency Operations Center, which has been running around-the-clock this week, estimated about 10,000 homes in the county had lost power at some point in the storms.
With things appearing mostly safe over the last few days, many seem to have found time to take a few moments and enjoy the sea of white washing over Cherokee County. By Thursday morning, photos and comments on county residents’ Facebook pages about perilous roads had given way to pictures of the snow-lined banks of the Etowah River, snowman after snowman and kids and dogs frolicking through the hills. Comments like “Winter Wonderland” and “So pretty to look at!” joined those pictures. Even local police departments got compliments on shots officers had taken of the changed landscape as they patrolled through the night.
But with the unusual sights came unusual problems for Cherokee County.
At least two children in the county were hurt Wednesday while sledding, with one of them having to be rushed to the hospital in serious condition, said Tim Cavender, spokesman for Cherokee Fire and Emergency Services. The 7-year-old boy was sledding in his yard in Ball Ground when he hit a tree head-on. He had a skull fracture and bleeding on the brain, Cavender said.
The child was sent to Northside Hospital-Cherokee and later transported to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston Pediatric Hospital.
Cavender warned all to take caution as they enjoy the rare opportunities the weather presents.