National Guard answered call during ice storm
by Nikki Wiley
February 14, 2014 04:00 AM | 2201 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print

First Lt. James Lemay prepares to leave for a six-hour patrol with other fellow guard members at the Clay National Guard Center in Marietta. Lemay keeps an apple nearby for a snack later. The guard was sent to locations where assistance was needed during the snow and ice storm the past three days. <br>Staff/Jeff Stanton
First Lt. James Lemay prepares to leave for a six-hour patrol with other fellow guard members at the Clay National Guard Center in Marietta. Lemay keeps an apple nearby for a snack later. The guard was sent to locations where assistance was needed during the snow and ice storm the past three days.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
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MARIETTA — More than a thousand members of the Georgia National Guard were operating statewide missions from base camp in Marietta on Wednesday and Thursday.

At the Clay National Guard Center and Dobbins Air Reserve Base, nearly 1,000 of the state’s 15,000 guardsmen were working under Gov. Nathan Deal’s orders to clear roads and aid struggling motorists.

“This is really the nerve center of what the Guard does, and it’s here permanently,” said Col. Tom Blackstock.

The week’s winter storm didn’t bring the catastrophe to Cobb that was originally forecasted and caused fewer traffic nightmares than the storm that crippled the area last month, but a task force was still operating just north of Kennesaw patrolling Interstates 75, 575 and 85, helping to get stuck vehicles on their way and prevent the gridlock seen two weeks ago.

“It’s primarily a north Georgia support mission and they’re spread from as far west as Calhoun and as far east as Augusta,” Blackstock said.

Trees weighed down with ice posed problems as trees toppled to the ground. One fell on a home on Woodland Drive in Kennesaw near Kennesaw Due West Road. Another took down a power line on West Dixie Avenue.

Statewide, 240,000 Georgia Power customers were still without power on Thursday morning but none of those were in Cobb. Over the three-day storm the state’s largest power provider had 441,000 customers without power.

The Marietta Board of Lights and Water saw 500 without power, but all had been restored by Thursday.

About 44 Cobb Electric Membership Corp. members were still without power Thursday morning, but most of the between 2,500 and 3,000 members who saw an outage during the storm were restored quickly, said Kevan Espy, vice president of marketing and communications for the EMC.

Armories statewide were opened as shelters, Blackstock said, giving those without power a place to stay, but fewer than 20 people had taken advantage of the service on Thursday. Some who found themselves in the shelters were just traveling through the metro area when they got stuck in the snow and ice. Others lost power and needed a warm place to stay with their children.

Still, Blackstock said this week’s operations were less chaotic than those of late January.

“I think the biggest difference is that this occurred kind of overnight instead of midday. People were already home,” Blackstock said. “Just by the timing of it, we had much less of an impact from the traffic standpoint.”

But with only 965 of the state’s 15,000 guardsmen called off their day jobs for duty, Blackstock said the true ability of the service is yet to be seen.

“We’ve barely scratched the surface of the capability of the Georgia National Guard,” Blackstock said.

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