The photo shows ice-covered roads near the top of Hendricks Mountain in Bent Tree. At 2,650 feet of elevation, the conditions were markedly different on Hendricks Mountain than other areas of the county. Photographer Robin Dunn described it as looking like ice cubes littering the ground where frozen precipitation had been blown from trees.
Pickens County was hit with the first storm of the season Saturday ahead of winter’s official December 21st start. The storm produced a wide variety of conditions depending on the area of the county.
Higher elevations such as Monument Road and areas inside Bent Tree were hit with ice and snow creating slick roads. Henderson Mountain, which generally sees similar conditions to the Monument Road area, was bypassed by this storm with no problems reported there.
While lower-lying areas avoided the frozen precipitation, strong winds toppled trees taking out power lines and closing roads in the eastern part of the county.
Commission Chair Rob Jones said more than 200 downed trees were reported across roadways and at one point more than 2,500 homes were without power. County crews opened all roads by Sunday but some power outages extended into Tuesday.
Jones said the power outages were difficult to fix quickly due to so many snapped power poles.
Pickens EMA Director John Nicholson said the Bent Tree and Grandview areas were the hardest hit by winds. No reports of structural damage or injuries were received by the county.
The storm damage and icy roads forced cancellation of schools Monday and Tuesday and closure or delayed openings for some government operations.
In closing schools Tuesday, the school district cited a combination of homes without power, roads impassable for school buses and predictions for more winter weather.
Even though this was a relatively uneventful winter storm, it carries a substantial price tag, as all storms do, with clean-up work and overtime for employees who worked around the clock on roads and downed trees.
Commissioner Jones estimated his 19 road department employees and seven water department employees will spend about two weeks cleaning debris that was pushed to the roadside to get them open quickly. During storms and immediately following all county departments and sheriff deputies work to keep roads passable and assist with any emergencies or stranded motorists.
Jones estimated that this relatively minor storm might end up costing the county $50,000, primarily with overtime and clean-up work. He said in this case, he was unaware of any damage, such as destroyed guardrails, that will need to be replaced, but if any destroyed infrastructure is later found the bill could climb higher. With good record keeping the county can be reimbursed by state or federal funds for some of the clean-up work following storms, but Jones said this never covers the bill.
One place the county hopes to improve in handling storms is with the massive brine-mixing system being installed at the Camp Road work station [see related story].
This marks the second December in a row to see an early winter storm create treacherous road conditions and school closings. Last year on December 8th Pickens saw a much more scenic snowstorm drop six to eight inches of snow.