Last week's ice storm had a major impact on the economy of McDuffie County. The effects of the cleanup effort are still being felt by residents and businesses.
The cleanup of fallen limbs continues to be a burden on local governments. Work crews from the City of Thomson and McDuffie County spent a lot of time removing limbs from the roads, much of which resulted in overtime pay for the workers involved.
"It's hard to quantify the cost right now," said Thomson City Administrator Bob Flanders. "The major cost in it is of course the man power to pick it up. ...We're going to incur a considerable amount of cost just on the extra grinding (of limbs)."
McDuffie County also had road crews involved with the cleanup. But according to County Manager Don Norton, the extra cost to the county should be minimal.
"In terms of the extra crews and personnel, I don't think there is too much," he said. "I suspect we've got some overtime that we're going to have to calculate and probably some equipment and material time too. ... It's the type of thing that obviously there's additional cost, but I don't think it's going to be a super duper expensive operation."
Public safety personnel were also out in force to assist with the tricky traffic situation during the storm.
"We definitely had to bring out extra people. As a matter of fact we had to cancel all the pass days," said Sgt. Thornell King of the Georgia State Patrol. "I had to come back up here on Monday because first thing Monday morning we had five accidents."
But possibly the largest cost incurred from the recent storm was on the shoulders of the power companies. Thousands of McDuffie County residents went without electricity for several days.
Georgia Power estimated the cost of repair following the ice storm to be approximately $3 million. That cost, according to Georgia Power Spokesperson Lolita Browning, includes 1,465 workers involved in restoring power to homes in the entire area affected by the storm.
The man hours that went into repairing damaged power lines were enormous. Many crews from Alabama Power were called in to assist Georgia Power in the repair. And as of Friday, all Jefferson Energy customers had power restored.
"We do incur a cost there, naturally when you bring in others to help," said Jefferson Energy Cooperative Spokesperson Steve Chalker. "But the most important thing is getting that power back on, especially when it's cold. And we do what we have to do to get that done as best we can."
The cleanup and repair effort that followed the ice storm did have some positive aspects, though. The extra crews and personnel called in from other areas had a positive impact on the economy of McDuffie County.
"There were so many people coming in to work on the cleanup, and of course the motels were all full," said Thomson-McDuffie Chamber of Commerce Director Carolyn Gilbert. "Some of the grocery stores and places that have batteries and things of that nature probably did really well also."
Business at local restaurants and hotels picked up as a result of the extra personnel brought in by the ice storm. Some hotels in McDuffie County were so full that they had to turn people away.
"It was a frustrating time for us because we weren't able to help nearly as many people as we would have liked and as we normally would have this time of year," said White Columns Owner Epp Wilson.
White Columns, which is normally only half-full during the winter months, was already housing many CSX workers who were in the process of replacing railroad ties and crossings in the county.
According to Mr. Wilson, many local people couldn't find a room nearby to escape the cold because the CSX workers along with out-of-town power crews had already filled the local hotels. White Columns had to turn away nearly 500 people during the course of the storm.
"People came down here from Lincolnton or from Thomson wanting a room, and I couldn't help them," Mr. Wilson said. "I just feel bad for all the good local people that we were not able to help. That was very frustrating for all of us. I like for local folks to stay here. I like to be a place where they can go and get warm, dry and be safe and bring their children."