Rare winter storm brings more than 3 inches of snow to parts of Georgia


Today: Partly cloudy. High: 38

Tonight: Mostly clear. Low: 23

Tomorrow: Cold. High: 33

» For a detailed forecast, visit The Atlanta Journal-Constitution weather page.

It’s been nearly 30 years since Savannah and parts of the Georgia coast saw this much snow, according to Channel 2 Action News. 

Bulloch and Effingham counties, which are northwest of Savannah, saw 3.5 inches, Channel 2 meteorologist Brad Nitz said. 

Officially, 1.2 inches of snow fell at the Savannah airport. 

“That’s sixth place on the all-time snowfall total list and the most since December 23, 1989,” Nitz said. “No. 1 on the list is 3.6 inches on February 8, 1968.”

Ned and Kim Gay live in Savannah's historic Ardsley Park neighborhood, one block from where a giant water oak came crashing down on a house during Hurricane-turned-Tropical Storm-Irma last year.

Just a few months later, the crazy weather was back, this time in the form of something they rarely see.

"Icicles, on the house!" an incredulous Kim Gay said.

Her husband was headed to work in downtown Savannah on Wednesday morning when his business partner called with a warning about the icy roads, growing slicker by the minute. They quickly reassessed things, given the closure of the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport and word that the Truman Parkway was closing due to icy conditions. By mid-morning, she rendered a wise verdict: "We're staying home today."

What started as sleet quickly changed over to snow throughout Chatham County, Channel 2 reported. The system then moved into South Carolina, where even more snow accumulated. 

Charleston saw 5 inches, Nitz said. 

“That’s third place on the all-time snowfall list and the most since February 10, 1973,” he said. “No. 1 on the list is 6 inches on December 23, 1989.”

Two brothers indulge in a rare snowball fight outside of Charleston, S.C. (Credit: John Emerson)

By 9:15 p.m., fewer than 9,000 people were affected by 319 power outages, according to Georgia Power.

Gov. Nathan Deal earlier declared a state of emergency through Friday for 28 counties in the coastal region.

MORE: State of emergency declared for coastal Georgia ahead of winter storm

As the snow accumulated and visibility on I-16 dropped Wednesday, the Chatham Emergency Management Agency announced the closure of the airport. Some travelers, however, who were already at the airport were stranded, Monahan said. The airport will remain closed until at least 8 a.m. Thursday, he said.

Snow covered I-16 at U.S. 201/U.S. 25 in Statesboro. (Credit: Georgia Department of Transportation)

Savannah State University, Savannah Technical College, Savannah College of Art and Design, city offices and Savannah-Chatham Public Schools previously announced they would be closed Wednesday.

The Georgia Department of Public Safety warned drivers to “use extreme caution” and tweeted about dangerous conditions on local highways.

Multiple roads in Chatham County were closed, according to emergency officials.

While no roads or bridges were closed in Glynn County, they were icy, slick and unsafe, Brunswick police said.

“If you can stay off the roads,” the department said in a Facebook post, “please do so.”

Glynn and Camden counties also face a coastal flood advisory in effect until 10 p.m. Wednesday.

“Rip currents will be life threatening,” the National Weather Service said in the advisory.

City offices in Savannah are expected to reopen at noon Thursday and Savannah City Council meets at 2 p.m. with a work session afterward. 

Closer to home, low temps are the concern.

“We just don’t have the moisture here to see any snow,” Nitz said.

Metro Atlanta is not part of Deal’s emergency declaration, but it is part of a wind chill advisory that goes into effect at 5 a.m. Thursday.

MORE: What does the advisory mean? 

“It will be dangerously cold,” Channel 2 meteorologist Karen Minton said. “We could have winds up to 30 mph (Thursday). And that’s going to make it feel awful.”

As a result, Murray County schools announced it will delay classes Thursday by two hours, according to Channel 2.

Atlanta could wake up to lows in the teens Thursday and the wind chill could make it feel colder than that.

“Temperatures will feel like 5 degrees to 10 degrees below zero,” Minton said. “Exposed skin can get frostbite in as little as 30 minutes in this cold.”

The advisory, which covers Bartow, Carroll, Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, Coweta, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Forsyth, Gwinnett, Hall, Fulton, Paulding and other counties, is set to expire at 10 a.m. Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.

Currently, the temperature is 31 degrees in Atlanta. The high is expected to reach only 33 degrees Thursday.

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