North Georgia readies for snow

North Georgia residents were bracing this morning for the possibility of snow falling this afternoon.

“It’s late getting here. The prediction is 7 a.m. until 7 a.m. tomorrow. It is barreling down on us,” said Nancy Smith, the night auditor for the Best Western hotel in Helen. “The worst is suppose to be around noon. That’s when the really, really bad stuff is suppose to get here."

"They keep telling us it is going,to snow or sleet an we've kept looking , saying, Where is it?" Said Dawn Smith, a waitress at the Blairsville Waffle House to two AJC staffers . "It will probably come when you leave. The last time that is what happened when [Channel 2 Action News] was here. They had headed back down the road and it came in."

PHOTO GALLERY: Ice climbers near Helen

Ryan “Squirrel” Davis, 28, said there should be a bunk free tonight in the hostel on the top on the Appalachian Trail on Blood Mountain. He promises and scrounge up a sleeping bag or at least a good blanket for me if snow rolls in later and I’m stuck in north Georgia.

“We had five people down there last night,” Squirrel said. “I don’t know how many are hiking The whole trail.”

It is 27 degrees outside here at 9:30 a.m.

One hiker, who goes by the trail name Rising Sun, said he plans to head for Harpers Ferry in a couple weeks.

“We are suppose to get some bad weather tonight but it might not ever come in,” Risingsun said. “The mountain makes it’s own weather.”

The Walasi-yi Center sits directly on the Appalachian Trail, with its breezeway providing the way for thru-hikers. The store is decorated with vintage backpacks and dangling hiking boots that have gone at least 500 miles before being replaced, Squirrel doesn’t expect any blizzard to dampen business that kicks into high season in a few weeks.

“We’re looking for the herd to start coming through in the next two weeks,” Squirrel said. “We’ll probably have 2000 or more people through by April.”

Whitfield County is among 15 North Georgia counties covered by Gov. Nathan Deal’s executive order declaring a state of emergency for disaster preparedness. Rain, snow and ice are in the forecast along with high wind gusts that could bring down tree limbs. Deal has also declared emergencies for Catoosa, Dade, Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Habersham, Lumpkin, Murray, Pickens, Rabun, Towns, Union, Walker and White and Whitfield counties.

“It’s scary quiet,” DeWayne Hunt, public works director for Whitfield County, said as he drove through his motor pool and inspected his equipment.

Hunt said he has staged county trucks in various parts of Whitfield so they can immediately respond to problems. He proudly showed off a new storage building full of about 400 tons of salt. His crews haven’t started spreading it yet, fearing the coming rain could wash it away.

“We want to save as much product as we can,” he said.

Meanwhile, Hunt is counting it as a blessing that Whitfield’s public schools are closed this week for winter break, clearing the roads of some traffic.

- Curtis Compton, Steve Visser, Jeremy Redmon

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