Snow moving out of areas with heaviest accumulations

chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.com; benw@ledger-enquier.comJanuary 28, 2014 

10 p.m.

Snow is moving out of areas with the heaviest accumulations in the Columbus area, a National Weather Service official said.

"The back end of the heavier snow is just about to push out of the area," said forecaster Ryan Willis. "You might continue with some light snow for the next hour to hour and a half."

Snowfall in Georgia was from the mountains to metro Atlanta to the Columbus area which received 1.5 inches to 2.5 inches. "Probably the state of Georgia will see some snow," he said.

Troopers in southwest Georgia and East Alabama said many accidents were reported on the roadways but none seriously.

Just after 10 p.m., City Manager Isaiah Hugley said the offices of the Columbus Consolidated Government will be closed Wednesday and reopen on Thursday. " Therefore, all employees "except" emergency and essential personnel (at department head's discretion) will be off on Wednesday as city government offices will be closed," he said in a statement. The decision was made after talking with Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, the police chief, Public Works director, Metra director and the Citizen Services Center manager about the conditions on roads and bridges throughout the city.

Safety is a big concern for employees. Ice and snow made traveling difficult on some roads and bridges throughout the city. With a high of 36 degrees Wednesday, roads will continue to be slippery and hazardous for motorists as the snow and ice begins to melt.

Crews will continue to service hot spots on bridges and roads with sand. Workers also will respond to fallen tree limbs and other calls.

There is no Metra bus service on Wednesday. Service will resume on Thursday.

"We encourage the public to be safe and only travel on the roadways if absolutely necessary," Hugley said.

9 p.m.

The snowfall in the Columbus area may end within the next hour or so, the National Weather Service said.

“The front has moved through,” said Patricia Atwell, a forecaster.

Columbus may get 1.5 to 2.5 inches of snow by the time the snowfall ends.

Several business have updated closures for Wednesday: St. Francis Spine Center opens at 10 a.m.; St. Francis Orthopaedic Institute opens at noon; St. Francis Center for Surgical Care is closed Wednesday but reopens Thursday; St. Francis OB/GYN Physician Partners Dr. Catalina Aranas is closed Wednesday but reopens Thursday; St. Francis OB/GYN Physician Partners Dr. G. Jeryl Everidge is closed Wednesday, but reopens Thursday; Columbus Gynecologic Oncology is closed Wednesday and reopens Thursday; Columbus Gynecologic Oncology is closed on Wednesday, reopens Thursday; St. Francis Center for Digestive Disorders is closed Wednesday; St. Francis OB/GYN Physician Partners Dr. Sylvester McRae, Dr. Joy Baker, Dr. Curtrina Strozier and Dr. Christy Ruehl is closed Wednesday and reopens Thursday; St. Francis Center for Breast Health is closed Wednesday and reopens Thursday. Wynnbrook Baptist Church also will be closed Wednesday and all activities canceled.

8 p.m.

Almost 2 inches of snow has fallen along River Road in Columbus, the National Weather Service said.

"It looks like it is starting to accumulate pretty good down there," said forecaster Ryan Willis.

A half-inch of snow also was reported at the Columbus Airport. Over the next two hours, Willis said the snow will start drying out from the northwest.

The snow will leave behind icy road conditions for motorists. "Travel has been discouraged because there have been a lot of accidents on the roadways," Willis said.

Mayor Teresa Tomlinson said at least 20 weather-related incidents have occurred on the roadways. The Columbus Consolidated Government will be closed except for essential services today and reopen on Thursday.

Columbus Patrol Lt. Jim Pope said accidents were mostly at iced over bridges. "Just about every bridge is iced over or at least has some ice on it," Pope said.

Motorists were facing a lot of slipping and sliding trying to get up a hill. No serious injuries have been reported, he said.

7 p.m.

A half-inch of accumulated snow has been reported in the Fortson area and Columbus could get an inch and half to 2 inches before midnight, a forecaster with the National weather service said.

Ryan Willis said the snow report in Fortson came in about 7 p.m. The Weather Service started getting reports of snow accumulations after the sleet and ice turned into snow.

Most of the snow is expected between now and midnight before it pushes out the area. After midnight, Willis said there will be some lighter snow showers. "Between now and midnight is when you would be expecting most of the precipitation," Willis said.

Icy conditions were keeping police busy in Muscogee and Russell County. Vehicles were running off icy roads and facing difficulty traveling up hills.

6 p.m.

After waiting all day, there finally reports of snow in Columbus, Phenix City and southern Harris County just before 6 p.m.

It was snowing as far south as downtown Columbus, accumulating on vehicles and sidewalks.

Columbus police reopened 13th Street Bridge about 6:20 p.m. after a two vehicles collided on the icy stretch of road west of Broadway in Columbus and Phenix City. Crews were spreading sand on the bridge and other locations where icy conditions made driving unsafe.

Laura Belanger, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Peachtree City, said a large area of mixed precipitation, sleet and freezing rain in the area will continue to fall until it turns into snow. "The temperatures in the area right now are at about 30 degrees so we can expect some will transition into more of snow rather than just that mixture." she said.

5:45 p.m.

A two-vehicle collision on icy 13th Street west of Broadway in Columbus forced the closure of the street between Columbus and Phenix City, officials said.

Two ambulances were on the scene as Columbus police blocked the entrance to the bridge.

With a mix of sleet and rain falling, police were calling for sand trucks on the slippery bridge. Bridges in other locations also were beginning to experience icy conditions.

5 p.m.

Still waiting on the snow?

WRBL Meteorologist Kurt Schmitz posted on his Facebook page about 4:45 p.m.: "... About to throw in the towel on the snow!"

According to the National Weather Service, Schmitz might want to hold on to his towel for a couple of more hours. There have been bands of snow in south Metro Atlanta and an accumulation of snow and ice of about a half inch as far south as LaGrange. There has been the report of sleet in Chattahoochee and Marion counties.

"It is snowing everywhere around you," said National Weather Service Meteorologist Laura Belanger. "It is still looking like it will be more of a wintery mix with snow and ice as opposed to just snow."

Just before 5 p.m. it was sleeting slightly in downtown Columbus and there were reports of snow in Auburn, Ala.

4 p.m.

The National Weather Service said that Columbus will likely receive less snow than it originally predicted -- but there should be some snow on the way.

"We are looking at less than we thought," said NWS Meteorologist Ryan Willis. The original forecast called for up to 4 inches in parts of the Chattahoochee Valley.

"We are now looking at 1.5 to 2 inches," Willis said. "It could begin between 6 and 7 p.m."

WRBL Chief Meteorologist Bob Jeswald said part of the issue is the air temperature is warmer 1,000 to 2,000 feet above the ground.

"While it is 25 to 28 degrees on the surface, it is 39 to 40 degrees above the surface," Jeswald said.

Even though the snow may not come in the amount people in the area had hoped for, the freezing rain and ice will cause another set of problems.

"This will likely make driving conditions much more challenging that originally anticipated," Willis said.

3 p.m.

The snow has not started, but with two hours of freezing rain and temperatures in the high 20s, those driving in Columbus and Phenix City are urged to use extreme caution.

"As soon as the snow starts, a lot of these roads will be impassable," said Columbus Police Lt. Tony Danford. "My advice to people is to get whatever it is you have to get and get off the roads."

Georgia Department of Transportation trucks have been putting sand down mainly on bridges on J.R. Allen Parkway and I-185 inside Muscogee County, Danford said.

"I have been out riding around and the bridges are starting to ice," Danford said at mid-afternoon.

Danford warns motorists about the dangers of driving on icy roads.

"There is not a lot you can do if you hit it," Danford said. "The biggest thing I tell people is don't let your speed build up. That is why those cars have those low gears. Use them. Speed is not your friend."

Snow is still in the forecast for later today, but the National Weather Service has also made it a possibility Wednesday morning before 9.

2 p.m.

With the temperature holding steady at 28 degrees and a freezing rain falling, Phenix City closed its municipal and utility offices at 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Those offices are will be closed all day Wednesday and remain closed until 10 a.m. Thursday, according to City Manager Wallace Hunter's office.

The rain has been falling for more than an hour in Columbus and there have no reports of road icing, according to the Muscogee County Sheriff's Office.

The weather seems to be setting up for a big freeze tonight, with the probability of snow this evening, according to the National Weather Service. The NWS is calling for a low of 21 degrees overnight.

1 p.m.

The rain started in downtown Columbus about 12:30 p.m. as the temperatures began to drop, just as the National Weather Service predicted.

It was 30 degrees at noon at the Columbus airport and 28 degrees an hour later, according to the NWS Peachtree City, Ga., office.

"We should see it switch over to freezing rain any time now," said Meteorologist Trisha Palmer.

This is starting to look like more of an ice event with the possibility of a couple of inches of snow, according to WRBL Chief Meteorologist Bob Jeswald.

"Before this all passes through, we are looking at a brief moment of snow," he said. "It looks like ice will be our biggest nemesis. We could have a quarter of an inch of ice."

Morning update

With a morning temperature hovering around freezing, the conditions are looking good for the wintry mix and snow to hit the Chattahoochee Valley this afternoon.

Some parts of our area could see frozen rain and sleet anytime between now and around 4 p.m. That's when the National Weather Service believes snow will begin falling. The forecast is for it to continue snowing until around 2 a.m. Wednesday.

Total accumulation obviously varies, but the overwhelming majority seem to think it could be around three inches.

Click here to read an updated list of schools that are either closing early or are closed for the entire day.

Let us know when you see the remnants of this storm by emailing us at newsroom@ledger-enquirer.com. We'll post your photos on our website throughout the day.

Georgia Power

Georgia Power Company has been preparing for the winter storm for two days, said Robert Watkins, who works in the Columbus office.

"Our concern right now is we are on the border of snow, sleet and freezing rain," Watkins said about 11 a.m.

Freezing rain would be the worst option for the power company and its customers, Watkins said.

"When that happens it can pull lines down and you will see pine limbs snap and take down lines," Watkins said.

There are about 65 Georgia Power employees in Columbus that are working in SERP -- Storm Evaluation Restoration Program. They are doing everything from logistics to monitoring lines.

Best-case situation?

"We are pulling for a really dry snow," Watkins said.

LIVE CAM


Live streaming video by Ustream

Stephanie Pedersen contributed to this story.

Ledger-Enquirer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service