Winter storm dumps snow on coastal Georgia

  • Ellen Eldridge
  • Tina A. Brown
  • Tessa DeMeyer
  • The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Jan 03, 2018

A monster storm bore down Wednesday on the Deep South, wrapping Georgia’s coast in a rare blanket of snow.

The wintry blast left behind a tangle of ice-slicked roads and a smattering of power outages before continuing its frigid march up the Eastern Seaboard. Schools and government buildings were closed. So was Savannah's airport.  

But kids — and even some adults — were giddy at the chance to experience a snowstorm, a few for the very first time.  

“It’s great!” enthused Gavin DeLoach, a 5-year-old from rural Effingham County, as he romped in 3.5 inches of the fluffy white stuff that had fallen there by late Wednesday. 

“We’ve been building a snowman and snowballs.”  DeLoach stuffed a fistful of snow into his mouth. The verdict: “It tastes like ice.”  

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

In Savannah, which hasn’t received more than an inch of snow in nearly three decades, city and county officials cautioned that overnight freezing temperatures are likely to cause dangerous streets, bridges and roadways Thursday morning.  

Before the snowfall began, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal issued a state of emergency for 28 Georgia counties. Most haven’t seen any substantial snowfall in years and temperatures in the region seldom dip below freezing. 

Deal said the state quickly dispatched its fleet of brine trucks and 75 snow plows to clear bridges, intersections and other congested areas. He urged residents to “stay informed, get prepared and be safe.”  

The storm hit a region already battered by last year's brutal hurricane season, which left behind tens of millions of dollars in damage.

Bethany Kinsey Jagdharry has been riding that wave of extreme weather since moving to Savannah about four years ago after earning her nursing degree from Georgia State University. By her count she has been through one hurricane, two tropical storms and now snow. 

Still, she was "beyond thrilled" by the latest weather adventure. 

“It’s like 2018 is giving us the opportunity to start fresh," she said. 

Bethany Kinsey Jagdharry enjoys the snow in Savannah on Wednesday, Jan. 3.

At Savannah's airport, 1.2 inches were recorded Wednesday, the highest total since December 23, 1989, and the sixth-highest since officials began keeping track. Five inches of snow fell in Charleston, S.C., weather officials said. 

Though the snow was tapering off, Dennis T. Jones, the director of the Chatham Emergency Management Agency, cautioned motorists against driving overnight. County offices are closed Thursday and so are public schools. 

About 1,500 people reported power outages and there were close to 300 minor accidents, including people who slipped on the ground, Jones said. No fatalities were reported. 

With the streets mostly empty of cars, four teenagers from the Gordonston neighborhood ventured outside Wednesday to walk 2 miles to get a coffee at the Foxy Loxy Cafe. Chris Langley, 18, Adam Capetillo, 18, Noah Kavanagh, 16, and John Kavanagh, 16, put on bright sports knit caps and layers of sweatshirts to weather the cold, crunchy snowfall. Noah had never seen snow before. 

“I came outside because I know it won’t last for long,” he said. 

About 25 miles northwest, in Springfield, Ga., police Officer Amelia Smith said there had been 20 accidents since the storm began. 

“Nobody knows how to drive in this," she said. "Nobody." 

"I’m not even going to the fender benders," she said. "This is rollovers, people upside-down in a ditch kind of thing. That’s the only thing we’re messing with." 

But in most places, residents more accustomed to sand than snow were enjoying the novelty. 

Darcy Giaquinto, owner and head coach at CrossFit GroundSpeed in Rincon, said she'd seen golf carts toting sleds down the street. 

“Everyone in this little community in our neighborhood is making the best of it," she said. 

Savannah resident Lysa Dixon weathered Tropical Storm Irma by inviting friends over for a cocktail party on her front lawn when the power went out. With snow coming down for the first time in anyone’s recollection, she once again made the most of things, whipping up a batch of homemade chili and her famous chicken soup.  

“Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!” she cried.