Gilmer Prepares for Severe Storms

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued warning for most of Georgia involving the coming severe storms.

Gilmer is included as the eastern half is set for severe storms, wind, and possibly hail. However, the western half of Gilmer is included in the NWS “Enhanced Risk” warnings, meaning citizens should be prepared for massive rainfall, large hail, potential tornadoes, and damaging wind reaching up to 60 mph.

While citizens are preparing for all the potential dangers, most are afraid of the possibility of flooding in their area. One citizen reported pea sized hail already falling outside at the East Ellijay Walmart.

The Gilmer County Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett spoke with FYN about the coming storms saying, “Hopefully, it  will move through the county without incident. Nevertheless, our people are geared up and ready to go.”

Being aware of the warnings, Pritchett says the Public Safety Department is ready, but waiting to gauge the intensity of the storms. He suggested extra preparations for all citizens living near creeks and other waterways saying that in Gilmer county, “Small creeks and other waterways could rise quickly. We just ask everyone to be prepared.”

As Public Safety continues preparations and monitoring of the potential risks, the National Weather Service is continuing updates to the storm, “At 1243 PM EDT…a strong thunderstorm was near Roy, or 11 miles east of Ellijay…moving east at 40 mph.”

Some locationsthe NWS indicated in the path of this storm include “Dahlonega, Suches, Amicalola Falls State Park, Camp Merrill, Springer
Mountain Shelter, Len Foote Hike Inn, Black Gap Shelter, Stover Creek Shelter, Hawk Mountain Shelter, Nimblewill, Roy, Gaddistown, Gooch, and Mountain Shelter.”

Gilmer Schools have even cancelled all afternoon activities for today, March 19, due to the storms, although they are planning to move ahead with their scheduled Board Meeting at 6 pm.

Stay with FetchYourNews as update continue on the storm’s severity and potential damage in the county. Again, if you begin to see water rising near your homes, seek shelter elsewhere to avoid being trapped. This became a real issue to citizens with flooding over recent years.

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Box truck shuts down Highway 515

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – A box truck heading north on Highway 515 stopped traffic when it wrecked late Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 27.

Authorities on scene worked quickly to clear the right lane of northbound traffic as nobody was seriously injured in the accident. The truck went off the road and came to rest on the guard rail near Highway 515 Auto Auction.

According to Gilmer County Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett, two people were in the truck at the time of the crash. At this time, Highway 515 is open to traffic again while workers are clearing the road.

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Pritchett responds to new position in Andrews

News, Police & Government

(Photo by Kelsey Richardson of the Andrews Journal)

ELLIJAY, Ga. – After a news story in the Andrews Journal today, one sentence has caused confusion among Gilmer County’s citizens and officials.

FetchYourNews (FYN) has confirmed with Gilmer County Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett that he is indeed taking a job in Andrews, North Carolina, as police chief for the department.

The Andrews Journal states, “Pritchett, who has family throughout Cherokee County, is from Gilmer County, Ga. He is transitioning from his role as the Gilmer County Public Safety director to Andrews police chief. Pritchett additionally has experience as chief of the Gilmer County Volunteer Fire Department.”

FYN reported the article to Gilmer County. Additionally, Pritchett has confirmed with FYN that he is transitioning away from the East Ellijay Police Department where Pritchett says he has worked shifts for eight years. Moving his police work to Andrews, Pritchett says he has taken the position for flexibility in his schedule. While he usually had night shifts in East Ellijay, Andrews will allow a less rigid schedule meaning less affect on his main position of public safety director in Gilmer, which he is not leaving.

Coming out of executive session, Pritchett was voted to be hired by the town’s Board of Aldermen. FYN has also checked with Gilmer County Chairman Charlie Paris who stated he confirmed with the town’s mayor that the new position will allow Pritchett to expand and support their police force as chief.

The Andrews Journal did report that Pritchett spoke about bringing a “good respectable and professional police force” to the city and later noted that when the new police force is hired, Pritchett would be focusing on the town’s drug crisis.

When FYN caught up with Pritchett about possibly transitioning away from Gilmer, he responded, “I love the county too much, and I ain’t going nowhere.”

The Andrews Police Department has diminished in the last year after the casino opened. Pritchett told FYN he would be adding his training and expertise to rebuild the department. While the new position will help to grow their department, Pritchett declined to say if there was a set period that he would be there saying, “As long as it is something that doesn’t take away from my responsibilities as public safety director, I don’t mind staying, helping out, and being a part of the department for a while. As long as it doesn’t place too much weight on me from here because Gilmer County, the citizens of Gilmer County, being public safety director and fire chief is my primary duty.”

Summarizing the entirety of the new position, Pritchett summed up his move as “swapping his extra job.”

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Cherry Log Fire Station: a promise fulfilled?

Community, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Holding their groundbreaking ceremony over the weekend, Gilmer County has already spent months clearing land and preparing the lot on Pink Pig Lane for a new fire station.

With a contractor moving forward, officials gathered together to formally break ground on the building’s construction. Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston visited with Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris, Gilmer County Post Commissioner Dallas Miller, and Gilmer Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett as they joined with local citizens to celebrate the project.

Officials turn the first shovel of dirt in the groundbreaking ceremony for Cherry Log's Fire Station.

Officials turn the first shovel of dirt in the groundbreaking ceremony for Cherry Log’s Fire Station.

With the original fire station in the area closed several years ago, citizens have continually expressed the importance of replacing it. A fire station in the area was promised but proved to be slow going. According to local resident Ernest Watkins, many of those in the area lost faith and didn’t believe the station would ever be built. Watkins told FetchYourNews (FYN) the station means everything to him as he had two sons who became volunteer firefighters and having the new location represents the culmination of his community coming together and being heard in what they are wanting.

Opening the ceremony, Pritchett spoke on the importance of the project saying, “Community fire and emergency response capabilities for our citizens are the most vital and important services a local government can provide.” He went on to thank the current Board of Commissioners for making the project a priority and following through with the community through consistent hurdles and obstacles they encountered.

Chairman Charlie Paris thanks Cherry Log residents for their patience in building the Fire Station.

Chairman Charlie Paris thanks Cherry Log residents for their patience in building the fire station.

Chairman Paris echoed the sentiments on the community thanking the Sisson Family who donated the land for the fire station as well as the people of Cherry Log saying, “You’ve been promised for years and years now that there is going to be a fire station here. It has been my objective to make that happen … This groundbreaking today is actually a confirmation of our promise to you that this is going to get built. We are going forward on it.”

Paris thanked citizens for their patience in the project as he and the current board have worked through the trials and tougher points of completing it.

The contract sets the station to be completed within six months from now. This sets the station to be open before next winter and available for any needs such as warming centers or shelters like any other station. Paris confirmed the new building will be a volunteer station and that the county already has volunteer firefighters planned at the location. The new location, dubbed Fire Station No. 3, will be an unmanned station that utilizes the volunteers to man the position.

With the ceremony completed and construction underway, Paris said the next step will be preparing equipment and readying the transfer of that equipment to the facility.

Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett looks on as Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston offers a few words for the fire station groundbreaking.

Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett, right, looks on as Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston offers a few words for the fire station groundbreaking.

Ralston praised the community’s efforts throughout the project saying he wanted to show his support for them. The “community spirit and pride” were what Ralston said laid the foundation. The fire station represents a “capstone” on their efforts locally. He went on to say he was very proud of the community and all they had accomplished.

His sentiment was later echoed by Paris who told FYN in a one-on-one interview that it was the community who stayed with the project. Considering some citizens becoming demoralized after the years they had waited for the project, Paris said, “The fact that we have done this, this is hard to ignore … They just wanted it to happen, and now that it is, I think the folks here are pretty happy with it.”

Paris also praised his Post Commissioners Dallas Miller and Travis Crouch for their support in the project saying, “There has never been a question about whether Cherry Log needed to have a fire station.”

Moving forward, citizens will continue to watch the project progress through construction and paving, marching ever closer to finally completing a promise years in the making.

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Bus wreck on Yukon injures students

News
Gilmer, County, Charter, School, Clear Creek, Middle, Shann Wilkes, Superintendent, Sheriff, Public Safety, Emergency, Crash, Wreck, Overturned, Bus, Yukon, Road
A Gilmer school bus is overturned on Yukon Road blocking both lanes of traffic.

A Gilmer school bus is overturned on Yukon Road blocking both lanes of traffic.

ELLIJAY, Ga. – A Gilmer County Charter School System bus has crashed roughly three miles out of town on Yukon Road.

The road is currently shut down and drivers need to find alternative routes as they attempt to travel. The bus was not involved with another vehicle. According to Gilmer County Charter School System Superintendent Dr. Shanna Wilkes, the bus overturned on the wet, rainy road resulting in minor injuries to children on board.

She did confirm the only students on board were from Clear Creek Middle School. With only minor, non-life-threatening, injuries, emergency services are transporting seven students to the emergency department in Ellijay and eight are being transported to the emergency room in Jasper. However, the other students on board were uninjured or only received scrapes or bruises and, having been checked by emergency response units, are being transported back to Clear Creek Middle School for parent pick-up.

Uninjured students from the bus crash are returned to Clear Creek Middle School for parent pick-up.

Uninjured students from the bus crash are returned to Clear Creek Middle School for parent pick-up.

According to the Gilmer County Charter School System, they are working to notify parents and are not releasing names of the students injured.

Witnesses on scene are reporting officers from Gilmer Fire, Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office, and the Georgia State Patrol are still working on the vehicle which is blocking both lanes of the road.

While emergency services are on scene, there is no set time expected for re-opening the road. Stay with FetchYourNews (FYN) as we continue to follow updates from authorities.

 

 

UPDATE: According to Dr. Shanna Wilkes, the accident coupled with response from parents to the schools delayed bus routes today, causing many students to arrive home far later than usual. With State Patrol undertaking a formal investigation into the incident, the use of this bus would demand a halt whether it is operational or not as authorities’ investigation will entail a full inspection in addition to questioning and investigating those involved.

While it is FYN’s understanding that the bus overturned after an over-correction by the driver, possibly trying to return to the road from the shoulder, it has not been confirmed by officials.

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Winter weather could worsen as Gilmer prepares

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – According to the National Weather Service, an upper-level storm system will move through the area early Monday into Monday afternoon in Gilmer County.

At this time, there continues to be much uncertainty on the start time of this precipitation as well as the eastward extent. What is becoming more certain is that the cold air we have been experiencing will remain in place as the precipitation begins. The National Weather Service states, “This would result in the rain freezing on contact with most surfaces including area roadways. Although amounts are expected to remain light, any freezing rain accumulations at all would create a glaze on roadways making for hazardous travel conditions. ”

As Gilmer prepares, the Sheriff’s Office and Gilmer County Public Safety has shared information with the county to announce they will have a warming shelter located at the Ellijay Civic Center (1561 S. Main St. – just south of the tennis courts) for those who may be stranded and unable to get home or those who continue to have issues at their homes with heating. While they are not currently open, public safety says it is continuing to monitor for a need and urges any who may need the shelter to contact them at 706-635-8911.

The warming shelter will have cots available, but citizens are told to bring blankets and pillows if they plan to use the shelter.

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Fire and Rescue Weekly Status Report

Police & Government
Dates Emergency Med Calls (EMS) MVC (Vehicle Accidents Vehicle Fires
12/24/17-12/30/17 68 5 1
Haz. Conditions Air Transports Other Total Calls
2 1 3 80

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House fire injures one and destroys home

News

ELLIJAY, Ga – A fire broke out at 1975 Old Flat Branch Road yesterday, Dec. 6.

According to Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett, the fire had reached advanced stages when 911 was contacted and response arrived on scene. While residents fled the fire, one female was transported for treatment of smoke inhalation and is still hospitalized.

Having already increased in size and threat, fire fighters immediately began containing the blaze in efforts to prevent further spread through the woods and into other homes. However, damage to the house was already spreading and the structure was consumed as well as part of the woods around the house.

At this time the area is completely extinguished, Pritchett stated the workers on scene have cleared any hot spots in the area so no flare ups will occur. However, an investigation is ongoing into the incident as he states they have not ascertained the cause at this time.

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