Temperatures remained below freezing in Cherokee County for 60 hours straight and many lost power, but Lt. Jay Baker, spokesman for the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, said no one was injured because of good planning and plenty of warning.
“We have had no reports of frostbite or hypothermia. Additionally, I am unaware of any accidents caused by black ice,” Baker said Tuesday. “It appears the community had plenty of warning of the coming weather and prepared for it.”
Cherokee County public schools were unable to reopen when winter break ended Monday as a result of low temperatures and even lower wind chills, School District spokeswoman Barbara Jacoby said.
The schools remained closed to students Tuesday, but planned to reopen on time today for the first day back to school after winter break.
The lowest temperature in the county was recorded in Waleska at Pine Log Mountain, reaching minus 1 with a wind chill of 25 below zero, said Robby Westbrook, director of the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office’s Division of Emergency Management.
“Very strong winds combined with plunging temperatures resulted in the coldest wind chill readings since 1985,” Westbrook said.
Gary Lamb, lead pastor at Action Church in Canton, opened up a sanctuary for people in need of a warm shelter during the cold temperatures this week.
Lamb said the city of Canton asked if he’d be willing to use the church as a shelter for people in need in the community as temperatures dropped below freezing, and he agreed.
“With the temperature dropping Monday night, and the fact that Cherokee doesn’t have a shelter, they wanted to know if we’d be willing to open up the building and provide a warming shelter for people to sleep, and so I told them ‘We could do better than that,’” Lamb said.
He said the mission was taken to the popular social media site Facebook, and help started pouring in.
“We ended up providing a hot meal, we had cots in here to sleep about 50 people, we were able to give away I don’t even know how many clothes, and it was a really cool thing,” Lamb said. “It just kind of worked out well for us to do that. Our people really rallied around it, and that’s just what our people do.”
More than two dozen people went to the shelter Monday night for warmth, food or a nap, Lamb said.
Canton City Councilman Bill Grant said the shelter is an example of the community coming together and rallying in a time of need.
Grant said he and the other two newly sworn-in Canton council members wanted to help, so they contacted Lamb and began a Facebook campaign.
“This grew very quickly, and the offers came pouring in to help. My post was shared over 50 times alone,” Grant said.
Grant said community officials helped get the word out about the shelter by spreading the message online and through Spanish posters in the Hispanic business areas in Canton.
“I contacted the Police Department and they helped as well, and even placed the information on their portable sign. Lots of people volunteered to help and provide supplies,” Grant said. “All in all, it was a great community of caring people who came together naturally to help those in need.”
Action Church, at 271 Marietta Road, opened its doors at 5 p.m. Monday for those in need, and served dinner at 6:30 p.m.
The church remained open as an emergency shelter on Tuesday night, and Lamb said he expected a higher turnout since the word had spread.
Since many people were without power Tuesday, Lamb said the church prepared individual rooms where families could stay if they were in need of a warm shelter, and planned to show family movies on the church’s big screens.
Lamb said the church decided to stay in the heart of Canton, while many other churches were moving to other areas, because one of his goals was to help the community.
“We’ll do whatever the city asks us to. We moved down here to do this,” he said. “Our location is just perfect for this, based on the homeless population in Canton and where they’re located.”
The extreme cold temperatures left a few icy patches on roads Monday, but no wrecks were reported as a result of the ice, Baker said.
Baker said public safety officials from across the county met with department heads at the Emergency Operation Center on Sunday to plan for the approaching weather threat.
“We reviewed information about the approaching weather and made contingency plans for different possible scenarios. The Emergency Operations Center was manned throughout the entire event and information released to the public as it happened,” Baker said. “We are very pleased with how the entire event transpired and are very happy no one was injured.”
While no injuries were reported as a result of the weather, Westbrook said about 200 people in the county were without power Tuesday morning, and power companies were working to fix the problems.
“The amount of people without power keeps changing by the hours as outages are repaired and new ones develop,” Westbrook said Tuesday.
The cold caused water service problems across the county, he said.
“Broken water lines in homes and businesses are becoming a major issue this afternoon all across the county,” Westbrook said.
Temperatures were expected to remain below freezing Tuesday night, then begin to rise heading toward the weekend, reaching above freezing temperatures by Wednesday afternoon, Westbrook said.