By Alton Mitchell
The National Weather Service hit it head on this time. Those were the words Chambers County EMA Director Donnie Smith used to describe the impacts of the winter weather system that hit Chambers County late Tuesday and early Wednesday last week. The storm dropped as much as four inches of snow on some parts of Chambers County and opened a doorway to days of below freezing temperatures that kept Chambers County shut down, and emergency management officials on their toes to keep residents safe.
Snow began falling on Chambers County on Tuesday night and continued into the break of daylight on Wednesday. When the night of snow was over areas of the County saw snowfall totals ranging from two to four inches across the County. As the snow exited rapidly declining temperatures took over the county as temperatures dropped into the teens and wind chill values reached to near the below zero mark in some locations.
The weather system created havoc that kept emergency officials on their feet as layers of ice began to blanket area roadways. According to Chambers County Engineer Josh Harvill county highway crews were able to get about 125 tons of sand distributed to roadways around Chambers County. However, many rural parts of the county were not able to be treated with sand. Harvill reports some roadways had as much as 2” of ice on them during points of the aftermath of the storm. The sand gave some traction, but the roads remained hazardous resulting in a closure of Chambers County roadways.
The mounting travel dangers in the county caused officials to issue a significant weather advisory for the county which was an impassable travel advisory. This was the first time in Chambers County history that alert has been used. The advisory went into place at 12:45 a.m.. on Wednesday morning and lasted until 1:00 p.m. Friday. Despite snow remained on some parts of the county until early Saturday.
The snow and ice that blanketed Chambers County also caused local officials to shut down various activities across the county. Venues such as schools and the Chambers County Courthouse were closed due to the dangerous travel conditions. Chambers County Commissioner Charlie Williams noted the closure of facilities like the courthouse was a necessary. “Closing the Courthouse for a day or two is much easier than someone losing their life,” explained Williams.
Snow in the southern United States is highly unpredictable and usually a widespread occurrence spanning several years in most cases. Harvill explained that, each time it snows it is used a learning opportunity on how to better handle it in the future. The ice storm of January 2014 that earned the name, “Snowpocalypse”, was used as a tool to help emergency officials handle last weeks snow more effectively. After that storm hit Chambers County with heavy ice, county officials purchased a sand spreader, which was used to help spread sand on local roadways during this storm system.
However, officials do note it is hard to be properly prepared for this type of event because if may happen once every four to five years and it is hard to budget funds for equipment to combat these weather events. The purchase of mass equipment for snow does the county no good when it will just sit up and rust when not in use. Officials state the best way to prepare for these storms in the future is just to have a plan and supplies to stay put for several days incase it does happen.