EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – As many are beginning to talk about the possibility of returning to school, some are still attempting to wrap up the previous year.
In Gilmer, part of that process occurred this week as students returned to the buildings to collect left-behind belongings. Planned in April, the Board of Education and Superintendent had the day set in order to offer a better sense of closure to the school year as the virus ended normal classes mid-semester. But as they returned, they were met by some unexpected people.
Gilmer County’s Public Safety offered a statement today saying. “It’s nearly school-time with many preparations underway. Part of those preparations is helping our kids understand the importance of good health practices. Gilmer County Community Paramedicine, with the generosity of Parkside Ellijay Nursing Home, paired together for a fun project this week at our elementary and middle schools.”
The project was to meet students in the schools and hand out face masks and flyers. According to Public Safety, the Community Paramedicine team visited three of our schools across the county supplied with the generous donation of 1,000 face-covering masks donated by Parkside Ellijay, and 1,000 informational flyers in English and Spanish.
The team handed out all the masks and 700 of the flyers to students and parents who arrived over the three-day period to collect their end-of 2019 school year belongings.
Public Safety was grateful for its partners in the endeavor, saying, “Many thanks to Michael Feist, Director & Part-Owner of Parkside Ellijay for the wonderful donation of the face covering masks, and to Dr. Shanna Downs, School Superintendent, for allowing our Community Paramedicine team to conduct this very successful service to our school children.”
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Ravaged by a storm across North Georgia, counties across the region are responding tonight to provide for citizens as best as possible.
The Gilmer County Public Safety Department has enacted plans late this evening due to the storm.
A shelter has been opened for anyone displaced from their home, or otherwise needing a place to stay. The shelter is located at the Civic Center, 1561 S Main St.
Much of Gilmer County suffered high winds and heavy rainfall throughout the night. Outages for Amicalola alone reached a total outages number between 11,000 and 12,000. The vast majority of those were in Gilmer County, reading 7,210 just before 3:00 a.m. according to their site.
Families sheltered in bathrooms and safe zones just after 1:00 a.m. as emergency warnings and tv weather reports urged immediate action with a tornado warning.
The National Weather Service also stated, “At 107 AM EDT, a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado was located over Ranger, or 13 miles east of Calhoun, moving east
at 60 mph.”
While downed trees, power lines, and other wind damage have already been reported from the storm, no reports on any extreme damage have been seen yet.
GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – Many have taken time in the recent weeks to say a special thank you to law-enforcement and emergency workers who are still at risk and cannot always maintain a “social distance” during their work.
This week saw another highlight in the community as two business owners stepped up to not only say thank you to those in service, but to provide a real need for them.
Laura Thomas is the owner and founder of Green Willow Soap in Ellijay. Her and her staff have been working hard this week to provide hand sanitizer to the public safety agencies in Gilmer. In fact, Gilmer Fire & Rescue, Ellijay Police, Ellijay Fire, East Ellijay Police, and the Gilmer Sheriff’s Office have all received hand sanitizer for their agents.
Thomas said, “All of the First Responders have received hand sanitizer to help them through their difficult jobs. GOD Bless them and protect them as they serve the people of Gilmer County.”
Heads of these agencies told FYN that the donation has answered a need as they have had difficulties purchasing and providing enough sanitizer during shortages. Creating and supplying the donation, Thomas said “My ladies have been working so hard to make this happen for our community.”
Gilmer County Fire & Rescue has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from our private citizens, as well as our local business leaders. On Wednesday 4/1/2020 Green Willow Soap generously donated around 100 bottles of individual hand sanitizers for each of our fire and rescue crew members. This donation of hand sanitizer will greatly assist with our mission of keeping our hands clean when soap and water may not be readily available at the conclusion of a 911 call. We greatly appreciate them thinking of us during a time when anti-bacterial supplies are in short demand and hard to obtain.”
But Green Willow Soap is not the only business answering this need. Gilmer Sheriff Stacy Nicholson said that earlier this month, around March 20, Danny Postell and Huff’s Drugs donated handmade hand sanitizer as well.
Sheriff Nicholson stated, “These generous donations of hand sanitizer have been huge in respect to our deputies’ safety. We have had a hard time buying it because of the high demand. But Huffs and Green Willow came through not only with the “product” but provided it in a manner that we could give individual bottles to deputies to keep with them. The donation from both was very much appreciated.”
Kauffman noted another donation for Gilmer Fire & Rescue saying, “We would also like to thank The Majestic Bee Bakery for dropping off boxes of individually wrapped cookies. While it is a small gesture of kindness, the smiles from the crews are huge and show how much they appreciate these care packages.”
In addition to local businesses donating, Kauffman said they have had private citizens show their support in many ways. Some of the items that have been donated to Gilmer County Fire Rescue include; N-95 face masks, surgical face masks, homemade face mask, gift cards, and baked goods. Nicholson also pointed to several donations, the Sheriff’s office have added thank you notes to their social media for donations from Pizza King and Mindy K’s Bakery.
Gilmer’s public safety professionals have said they are very appreciative of our local citizens and businesses thinking of them and supporting them during this crisis.
GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – Gilmer’s new Public Safety Coalition has offered information for citizens to be informed and not worry even if they do show signs of infection that have been noted for the Coronavirus.
Offering a statement yesterday, the Coalition said that any who develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 infection should get medical attention immediately. Those Emergency warning signs include:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or inability to arouse from sleep
- Bluish lips or face
However, as FYN followed up on how to seek medical attention without further spreading, the Coaliton offered a Center for Disease Control (CDC) document explaining more in-depth about actions to be taken if you are or think you have the infection.
That document, pictured to the right, draws specific attention that Gilmer’s Coalition also wanted to point out.
Keith Kucera, Director of Gilmer County Public Safety, said, “One particular thing the document speaks to is calling ahead to your Primary Care Manager (Doctor). During this call, most offices will ask a series of screening questions specific to your sickness. At that point they will make further recommendations for treatment and/or possible testing.”
Much of the community has already heard about or seen others wearing face masks, even if they aren’t infected. The CDC recommends such for those who believe they are infected along with a high focus on isolation and extreme sanitization of self, surfaces, and items.
Check out more information on the CDC’s COVID-19 Page.
GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – A coalition of public safety, government entities, and service agencies in Gilmer County has been meeting to respond to the threat and concerns of COVID -19 (Coronavirus) and is reaching out to citizens for information, response, prevention, and overall health during this time.
The coalition consists of Gilmer County Emergency Management Agency, Gilmer County Fire and Rescue, Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office, City of Ellijay Police Department, City of Ellijay Fire Department, City of East Ellijay Police Department, and the Gilmer County School Board.
After a meeting on March 13 to address the community’s current concerns over the corona virus outbreak, many business, government entities, and agencies have either closed down or closed public access.
According to a recent release from this coalition, “Some of those concerns called for tough decisions that, in an abundance of caution, resulted in the temporary closing of our schools and the cancellation of some local events. These are temporary in nature and will be evaluated on a daily or weekly basis as the virus runs its natural course.”
They have also reiterated that no COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Gilmer, Fannin, or Pickens county at this time and urged citizens to “remain calm, keep our wits about us and make reasonable purchases at our markets to allow other family members and neighbors to make similar purchases.”
The Coalition will meet every two weeks, and more frequently if necessary.
They have also made a release with helpful information to protect yourselves, your loved ones, and your neighbors:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately. Emergency warning signs include:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or inability to arouse from sleep
- Bluish lips or face
GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – As the snow melt sits on top of Gilmer’s already saturated soil, the continuous storm moving across North Georgia is once again causing closures and emergency responses across the area, now with a Flood Watch.
Gilmer County Schools stated earlier tonight that they will be closed tomorrow, Tuesday, February 11th for students. Staff will have a professional learning day starting at 9:00am.
Additionally, the National Weather Service (NWS) has issued yet another advisory for the county. This time, the official statement said, “The first round of heavy rain will be moving in this afternoon and continue through midday Tuesday. Two to four inches of rain is expected with local amounts approaching six inches. With saturated soil and very high streamflow, runoff from the heavy rain will be enhanced, leading to a greater threat of flash flooding.”
While, currently, the advisory is a Flood Watch, the NWS added that flash flooding and minor to moderate flooding of larger creeks and rivers is expected. This will close some roads and could flood homes and businesses in flood-prone areas. Along larger creeks and rivers, flooding could last for several days.
Reports are coming in that the Gilmer County Public Safety Department is still running through prepared emergency conditions during the Flood Watch. Should the main rivers through the county rise much more, a state of emergency could be declared.
Gilmer’s Public Safety also issued a statement saying,
The National Weather Service will be issuing a SIGNIFICANT FLOOD WARNING – by their own admission, a rare occurrence from their office.
The first of several waves of rain is underway across North GA this morning. Rain will shift southward across parts of Central GA this afternoon & evening. Isolated non-severe storms are possible. The highest rainfall totals thru early Tuesday AM will be across North GA.
Unfortunately, the most significant rainfall and danger will be during the overnight hours. Persons living on creeks and rivers should find a way to monitor their surroundings frequently, and be prepared to evacuate. Have a plan!
Remember – if you encounter water on streets and highways, do not attempt to cross unless you already know it is safe to do so. Don’t drown – Turn around!
While much of the county is still trying to recover from last weeks storms and the snow over the weekend, runoff is not going to stop soon. Citizens are urged to keep a close eye on nearby water sources including streams, creeks, rivers, and ponds.
GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – In less than 24 hours, Gilmer County has gone from heavy rains and high winds under a Flash Flood Warning to Heavy Snow and Ice under a Winter Storm Warning.
The National Weather Service has issued the Winter Storm Warning until 7 p.m. tonight calling for up to 4 inches of accumulation. The NWS stated, “Accumulating snow on area roadways, and reduced visibility in snow, could make travel very difficult. Temperatures should drop below freezing again tonight…making black ice possible on Sunday morning.”
Gilmer Citizens are encouraged to stay off the roads not only tonight, but in the morning as well with ice from both the snowfall and the several inches of rain from the last two days.
While the Gilmer County Public Safety department had already prepared storm shelters and emergency preparations yesterday for the flood, they are continuing shelter operations through this change in the storm as it continues to hit Gilmer. The Public Safety Department issued a statement saying, “Many people are becoming stranded on the roads due to impossible driving conditions. We have opened a warming shelter at the Civic Center for those who cannot get home or to any other warm location. For information, please call our non-emergency number at 706-635-8911.”
The weather has already cause accidents on the roads including major accidents. The Gilmer Sheriff’s Office has reported a semi truck wrecked at Hwy. 515 at the 382 connector. While this accident is cleared at this time, more accidents could come from worsening road and ice conditions.
Gilmer County Public Safety released information this morning about closed and barricaded roads.
Maddox Dr. – Barricaded
Howard Simmons Rd. – Barriacaded
Main Gate Coosawattee – Closed
Ellenton Gate Coosawattee – Closed
Most streets inside Coosawattee are impassable
Vehicle accidents are occurring all over the county. Statements have been issued that the Georgia Department of Transportation and Gilmer County Road Department are working vigorously to keep up with the rapidly changing road conditions.
Authorities are asking citizens to “please stay home for a few hours. Conditions should improve by mid-afternoon.”
(All photos provided by the Gilmer County Public Safety Department.)
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Authorities are still finding damage and reports from the last two days of storms, meanwhile volunteers and citizens are banning together to clear roadways, driveways, and yards from debris.
According to the National Weather Service in Peachtree City, “60 mph wind gusts and penny size hail” were the main concerns from the storms. Authorities also fought with heavy rains and visibility on roads.
Coosawattee River Resort dealt with numerous downed power lines and both Pike Electric and Amicalola EMC workers were seen across the county yesterday before the second round of storms came through.
While FYN has not received reports from citizens or county authorities on any casualties and no public releases have been made, there has been on major note of damage inside the city limits. The clock tower, of Clocktower Crossing, was destroyed.
Authorities are saying that the damage was caused by the storms in the early morning on Saturday. Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office reports that Holden Road and Wood Ridge Drive are impassable at this time.
In addition to clean up efforts for the tower, business and county personnel, specifically Road and Power crews, have been working the damage for nearly 35 hours today. As of 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Amicalola Electric Membership Corporation is still reporting 703 homes without power in Gilmer alone, plus an additional 610 in surrounding counties.
They have also issued the following statement,
Severe storms with high winds blew through last night, leaving downed power lines across our service area. Outages are down from around 10,000 members at the peak, to currently around 4100, primarily in Gilmer County. Amicalola EMC crews have been working through the night and additional crews, from other companies, have been called in to assist restoration efforts. Use extreme caution if you are near a downed power line. Never go near a downed line, always assume lines are still energized. To report an outage please call one of the following: 706-253-0359, 706-276-0359 or 706-864-0359. All power will be restored as soon as is safely possible.
While no definitive statement has been made, public statements and statistics indicate that Gilmer may have been hit the worse of the 515 corridor at least.
Gilmer County Public Safety has also offered citizens a reminder list of Damage Control Contacts:
Emergency – City and County: Dial 911
Non-Emergency: Dial 706-635-8911
Road Department – County: 706-635-4589
Street Department – City:
Business Hours: 706-635-4711
After Business Hours: 706-635-8911
Georgia Power: 888-891-0938
Amicalola EMC: 706-253-0359 or 706-276-0359
Tri-County EMC: 866-254-8100 or 478-986-8100
ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Fire Department is continuing with changes to budget recommendations since last October.
While discussions at that time had former Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett prioritizing a pumper truck higher on the list, the new Public Safety Director Keith Kucera, along with Fire Chief Daniel Kaufman, have urged the Commissioners to reconsider this budget priority.
Instead of the truck, Kucera and Kaufman are asking the Board of Commissioners (BOC) to prioritize the upgrading and replacement of older turnout gear for firefighters. The new gear will be funded from the same money that was set for the truck. However, Board of Commissioner Chairman Charlie Paris states that there is expected to be a difference in the financial allocations. Therefore, an amendment will be needed.
With 30 complete sets of gear, three vendors have been looked at. The cheapest vendor offers Lion Brand gear at $61,705.50.
The department is also looking to replace 28 air packs for the firefighters to transition from 2216 PSI to 4500 PSI. Kaufman said this allows longer work times on scene as well as better compatibility with Ellijay’s Fire Department.
The estimates for the 28 air packs with spare masks and cylinders, along with extras like voice amplifiers and larger batteries, totaled $215,740, according to Kaufman who spoke during the BOC April Meeting.
Kaufman went on to say that the Fire Department wants to get to a point where they may rotate this gear among volunteer stations or other places of need. With this, the department would potentially only be looking to buy ten sets every 3 years instead of making large purchases like they are looking at now.
Additionally, the county Fire Department’s ladder truck failed an inspection with an issue in the turntable at the base of the ladder that allows it to rotate. Kucera stated the truck is from 1986 and it has just “failed over time.”
Due to the age of the truck, Kucera said there is a sole source bid situation for repairs. That bid came in at $39,150. Paris questioned what the cost of replacing the truck completely could total. Kucera and Kaufman both said it would be around $500,000.
While the Commissioners agreed on the severity of the need, allowing Paris and Chief Financial Officer Sandi Holden to look deeper into the budget and find the difference between the originally budgeted pumper truck and the need for the gear, air packs, and ladder truck repair.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – A surprise even to him, he says, the Board of Commissioners officially announced Keith Kucera as the Public Safety Director of Gilmer County.
FYN caught up with Kucera to ask him how he felt about moving from his months as Interim into the full-term position.
He called it an honor to serve the citizens of the county in this position and looks forward to the coming months as he builds relations between the county and state and other local agencies. Kucera moves into the full term position alongside Daniel Kauffman as the Fire Chief of Gilmer.
Kucera retired from military after 25 years of active duty, where he served in the U.S. Coast Guard, and moved to Ellijay where he says he never expected or looked to become a Director, yet when the opening came, he put forth his name and served in the interim. He lives here with his wife, Pamela.
It is a move that many firefighters seem happy with. As reported in “BOC names full time Public Safety Director and Fire Chief,” many members of emergency services showed up at the commissioners meeting to show support for the direction the BOC was taking in their departments, though they didn’t know Kucera was being named as Director, FYN has come to understand that it had been internally announced before the meeting that Daniel Kauffman was taking the position of Fire Chief.
Kucera said the show of support “means the world” to him. Having the support of the men and women of the departments, and his family’s support as well, is “second to none. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, and I look forward to many years to come.”
According to Kucera, their support and the support of the Fire Chief is what will allow him to open up more to the duties of a Public Safety Director and allow the fire department to focus on what they do with a chief who can focus on that as well.
This is something Gilmer Commission Chairman Charlie Paris has said before as he wanted to separate, at least, the fire chief position so as to not have one person pulled into too many directions and possibly detracting from the service offered to the department.
Kucera said, “The Public Safety Division is going to be able to branch out to the other agencies within the county and build more of a coalition-type group within the county to serve the public better as a whole.” Kucera went on to note that some other benefits could include a better chance at obtaining and retaining grants from the federal and state governments as well as combining into a consolidated public safety group in times of need.
Besides the day to day work, Kucera said one of his major projects to tackle as the Public Safety Director is building community relations. He stated, “I continue to pledge my service to the community, to the citizens, and I look forward to meeting every single person I possibly can.”
Throughout the entire time speaking with him, Kucera never mentioned how he wanted to lead the department or the type of leadership he wanted to show. Instead, numerous times, he repeated that he was anxious to continue “serving with” the firefighters and emergency response workers of the county.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – “Solidarity” was the word used by one fireman who spoke at Thursday’s, March 14, Commissioners Meeting.
That show of solidarity included 15 members of public safety’s fire and ems divisions as the stood together to tell the BOC that they are happy with the direction and way the Public Safety Department is moving.
To take that one step further, Gilmer County Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlie Paris skipped ahead on his agenda to return the favor by officially announcing Keith Kucera as the full-time Public Safety Director. Kucera has served as interim since February 12, 2019, and now begins his service as the full time Director, leaving the interim title behind.
Kucera also released information to FYN that an official announcement has also been made about the full-time Fire Chief. Kucera was proud to announce Daniel Kauffman will be taking the position as Kucera tells FYN he comes from Ocala, Florida.
Kucera said that Kauffman brings 30 years of fire service experience from Marion County in Florida as a District Chief and a Battalion Chief. He also has a Master’s Degree in Human Resources and a Bachelor’s Degree in Fire Science.
Despite recent issues in the Fire Department, Paris stated to those present that they had no idea how much their public display meant to the Board.
Further, those fire and ems staff present offered standing applause to the announcement of Kucera to the Director position during the meeting.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – According to news reports, Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris has named two Directors as interim in the Public Safety Departments.
Readers will recall when FYN broke the story that Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett had resigned. Current information indicates, however, that instead of directly replacing Pritchett, Paris intends to separate the position of Fire Chief from the Public Safety position.
According to these reports, Brian Scudder will serve as the interim fire chief, and Keith Kucera as the interim public safety director/EMA director.
Stay with FYN as more information becomes available and we follow up on this development.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – With only one night into what is expected to become a week long surge of rain and storms, Gilmer County has seen debris and trees down on several roads.
While authorities are urging care and caution in citizens, the Publis Safety Department and Sheriff’s Offices are both continuing warnings about flash floods, high winds, and dangerous conditions that could last until Saturday.
A Flood Watch remains effect through Saturday morning for portions of north and northwest Georgia. As a result of multiple periods with heavy rainfall, some localized flooding of creeks and streams may be possible across portions of northern Georgia.
Additionally, even Gilmer County Schools representatives have reported delays in bus routes and travel because of the debris and trees the county is already dealing with on their roads.
They are asking parents for patience today as drivers are navigating these roads and conditions. Parents should not be concerned if students on buses arrive home a few minutes later than normal.
Please be patient as some bus routes may run slightly later than normal as our drivers exercise extreme caution in transporting our students this morning.
Amicalola Electric company is also reporting major outages in the area as they continue dealing with the storm. With 107 outages, they have reported close to 4,000 homes without power today. While much of these outages came in the area of Talking Rock and Highway 52, there are others affected all over the county. Crews are currently attending to these and working to restore power as quickly and safely as possible.
The National Weather Service is continuing its Flood Warnings for the area through Saturday Morning and has added a sever weather statement saying,
Wind gusts of 20 to 30 mph will be possible through the rest of the day for portions of northern Georgia. These enhanced wind speeds combined with extremely saturated soils from the persistent rain have resulted in conditions very susceptible for trees to become uprooted and blown over. Trees may be blown onto structures, roadways or powerlines causing further power outages across the area.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett has tendered a resignation from his position as Public Safety Director.
Though his letter of resignation is tendered, it is notice of his resignation at March 15, 2019, meaning he will remain in the position until then to prepare and possibly train his replacement. He has served 16 years in Gilmer County, with 12 of those as Chief and Director. He was Fire Chief until 2015 when the position of Public Safety Director was created and he has served in since.
According to his resignation letter, Pritchett cited that he is pursuing other opportunities. Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlie Paris said that the County will begin advertising for the position in the next 10 days and will look both internally and externally for candidates.
Paris confirmed that he tendered his letter today, February 6, 2019. He also told FYN that he has appreciated Pritchett’s service over the years and has wished him well in his pursuits.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County Schools have already posted to their home website and made public that they will be canceling school tomorrow, Tuesday, January 29, 2019, in anticipation of the coming winter weather event.
The School System noted that Governor Brian Kemp announced that all state offices will be closed Tuesday due to the approaching winter storm. They stated, “For the safety of our staff and students, Gilmer County Schools will follow suit and be closed for all staff and students on Tuesday, January 29, 2019.”
The County is marshaling against the storm as well as the Sheriff’s Office has also put out notices on social media anticipating the storm. Public Safety and Emergency Response officials are asking citizens to be safe in the coming weather event. Due to the extreme low temperatures and possible precipitation, ice is a very real responsibility on the roads.
Gilmer County Public Safety has also issued warnings to citizens about black ice and hazardous traveling conditions, sharing four major concern alerts through social media.
* Snow: Some accumulating snow is looking more likely across the higher elevations of north GA, along with some light accumulations extending generally along and north of the I-85 corridor, including the Atlanta Metro area.
* Black Ice: Regardless of what snowfall occurs, what is more certain is the temperatures quickly falling on the heels of the precipitation as the arctic airmass sets in, bringing the potential of black ice to any areas receiving rain or snow across both north and central GA.
* Gusty Winds: Winds will rapidly increase behind the cold front during the day Tuesday and persisting into Tuesday night. Expect northwest winds around 20 mph with gusts up to 30 mph.
* Wind Chills: The bitter cold temps and increased winds will result in wind chills dropping into the low to mid teens for most areas with single digits in the mountains.
Though most of the concern is focused now on Tuesday, officials are waiting to see just how bad the storm gets before making additional plans or closings for Wednesday on.
Make sure to follow FYN for updates from the county and school system as to any changes or additions to their official response.
ELLIJAY, Ga – Not even two months have passed since Gilmer suffered through one of the worst storms it has seen in decades near the end of July, yet Hurricane Florence threatens to be just as bad, if not worse, according to reports from the National Weather Service and State Governments along the East Coast.
Both South and North Carolina have seen mandatory evacuation orders for residents in certain areas. With the residents continuing to travel west away from the storm, Georgia’s State Government has spoken about accepting those fleeing the path of the hurricane. The National Guard and the Coast Guard have already been mobilized for support as well as forces from Maryland and even New York preparing to help.
With a recent change in direction, the National Weather Service now indicates that North Georgia could see much more impact now. Public Safety Director Tony Pritchett said we are on the “dirtier” side of the storm today in a scheduled Commissioner’s meeting where he warned of potential dangers and damage that Gilmer could see from the southern turn of Hurricane Florence.
The expected impact is so large that Georgia Governor Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for the state.
Based on the latest 11 a.m. forecast for Hurricane Florence and acting on a recommendation from Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security officials, today I issued an emergency declaration for all 159 counties in Georgia.
The Gilmer Public Safety Department took to social media today as well to warn citizens of “an enhanced chance of impacts for our area. Potential impacts could include heavy rain and sustained winds. This could very well cause serious flooding impacts and a large amount of downed trees. Roadways washed out and damaged and widespread power outages are all a result of these impacts.”
Officials are asking citizens to prepare for the oncoming storm and for an influx of people attempting to flee the storm, even as we are still recovering from the July storm. Public Works Director Jim Smith told the Commissioners today that his people were also prepared to mobilize in recovery and recuperation efforts.
Public Safety also noted, “Everyone should keep in mind that systems such as this in the past have caused SEVERE damage for our county. Although we hope this is not the case. PLEASE PREPARE NOW! Preparedness includes adequate food and water for a minimum of 72 hours, flashlights and batteries, a full charge on all wireless devices and portable charging options for these devices, generators and fuel if you have them and know the PROPER use and placement.”
Commission Chairman Charlie Paris stated that the county is preparing its resources including Pritchett preparing the Emergency Management Program as the county readies itself to open shelters if needed. He also confirmed that while Gilmer is not currently in talks with the State about housing evacuees, it is prepared for the call with those shelters made ready.
Emergency preparedness goes far deeper than just resources and shelters, however. Threats like this are prepared for months and years in advance. Pritchett made special note of the departments swift water training and equipment in a case of an extreme event saying, “We have very advanced, skilled swift-water-trained individuals that are trained to get to most anybody that is trapped or is in a rescue situation.”
Preparing for the worst-case scenario, Pritchett said the Department already has response plans throughout the county, but cautioned citizens against “sounding the alarm” for something that may not be as bad as they are preparing for. Despite the declaration of a State of Emergency, he noted that at this time, preparedness is the best course of action as they have previously stated.
These are the reasons that he encourages citizens to have cell phones charged and to prepare other means of charging in case of a need. Having these devices available to contact emergency response is also a part of survival.
As you continue watching for news and updates regarding Hurricane Florence, it may be wise to go ahead and program the non-emergency response numbers into your phone in case a need arises. If you have questions, concerns, or a need contact Headquarters at 706-635-1333 or the non-emergency dispatch number 706-635-8911. Pritchett also encouraged citizens to keep an eye on the Gilmer County Public Safety Facebook Page for updates on the storm, shelters, and impact on Gilmer County.