The warnings local officials issued to stay off Effingham County roads on Tuesday and Wednesday appear to have paid off.
The Effingham County Sheriff’s Office had “very, very few reports” of problems as rainy weather combined with frigid temperatures passed through, according to ECSO spokesman Detective David Ehsanipoor.
“We saw fewer traffic-related incidents (Wednesday) than we do on an average day,” Ehsanipoor said. “We credit citizens for heeding our warnings to stay off the roadways.”
The vehicles not on the roads included Effingham County school buses. As a precaution, school officials canceled Tuesday and Wednesday classes and pushed Thursday’s start time back by two hours.
“We fully support the school system’s decision to cancel school for the safety of the students and faculty,” Ehsanipoor said.
“Weather is just so unpredictable,” said Effingham County Schools Superintendent Randy Shearouse. “Unfortunately, it’s not an exact science, but when you have students in your care, you want to do what’s right by them and make sure they are safe.”
No decision has yet been made when, or if at all, Effingham students will make up this week’s two unscheduled days off. Shearouse said that will be discussed at the Feb. 5 board of education meeting.
This year’s academic calendar presents some challenges to rescheduling the two days, according to Shearouse. One of them is that the school year ends on a Friday (May 23), and high school graduations will be held that night and the next.
“There is a provision in state law that allows up to four days per year that would not have to be made up,” Shearouse said, “but we need to look at our calendar to see if that’s what we want to do.”
Beginning early Wednesday morning, “most overpasses and bridges iced over in Effingham County,” Ehsanipoor said. Ice formed on some local roads, including Highway 119 north and south and Highway 17 between Guyton and Midland.
Crews from Effingham County public works and the Georgia Department of Transportation treated the icy roads, Ehsanipoor said. He also lauded the steps taken by local fire departments, EMS and hospital staff to prepare for potential stormy weather.
It was a stark contrast to the chaos in Atlanta, where icy weather gridlocked traffic. Some drivers abandoned their cars, and thousands of students were reported to have been stranded on buses and in their schools.
“We would have been prepared as best we could if that storm system Atlanta experienced had come this far south,” Ehsanipoor said. “I truly believe we would not have been as bad off as Atlanta was.”
Fortunately, Shearouse said, a group of Effingham County students visiting Atlanta were able to leave ahead of the storm. About 40 Interact Club members participating in Effingham Day at the Capitol were scheduled to attend a breakfast and have their picture taken Tuesday morning with Gov. Nathan Deal.
However, school officials directed them to change plans and leave Atlanta at 6 a.m. With a stop for lunch along the way, the students were safely back in Effingham around 12:30 p.m., according to Shearouse.
“Looking back, I’m really glad we did that,” he said. “We made the right decision.”