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Gov. Deal extends state of emergency through Sunday, urges continued caution

Gov. Nathan Deal

Gov. Nathan Deal

Even as the snow began to melt Thursday, Gov. Nathan Deal extended a state of emergency for much of Georgia to Sunday.

With 300,000 power customers still without electricity, mostly in the Augusta area, and roads filled with debris, Deal said people need to remain cautious.

“We’re not totally through this,” Deal said. “When (snow) starts to melt and it starts to refreeze, ice is a very dangerous commodity.”

“It’s nice to see the sun … but do be cautious,” he added, saying one fatality came in state when a person slipped and fell on the ice. “Tomorrow morning, those roads are going to be slick.”

While many power crews have moved east from metro Atlanta to help with restore the power in Augusta, which at one point had more than 500,000 people without power, the National Guard’s Jim Butterworth said resources would remain spread across the state. He said the force will remain in the metro Atlanta area through Friday’s rush hour.

Two weeks after a crush of drivers leaving during snow conditions paralyzed Atlanta and hampered efforts to treat icy roads, Deal thanked residents again for heeding a warning to stay indoors. That helped this week’s response, he said, adding that the results were “not nearly as dramatic and traumatic as it might have been.”

“We think the human response under these last few days circumstances has been remarkable,” Deal said, adding that the state patrol has responded to about 305 traffic accidents but not a single one was fatal (although a Cobb County pedestrian was killed in a hit-and-run).

With a state of emergency declared for 91 counties, including Gwinnett, Deal said the state was challenged with responding to such a large area, but he said he was satisfied with the work so far. Officials have not tallied the costs, but Deal said he hopes that the federal government, which also declared a state of emergency, will help with cost-sharing.

During Deal’s noon press conference, Department of Public Health Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald said people impacted by power outages should not only worry about hypothermia but also carbon monoxide poisoning, if gas space heaters or ovens are used to heat.

If the power is out for more than four hours, she added, people should avoid the food stored in their refrigerator, as food poisoning may have set in.

With more than 7,000 people working on crews to restore power and more than 200 teams tackling debris that has fallen due to the ice, Deal said the response will continue through the weekend.

“We are experiencing a little bit of relief as the sun appears to be trying to shine on us today,” he said. “I know (people) are anxious to get out. … But be cautious. …

“Ice is dangerous, no matter what circumstance you find yourself in.”