On Jan. 17, Coweta County and the surrounding areas woke up to a blanket of white. Due to winter storm Inga, almost six inches of snow covered the ground in northern portions of the county, and two inches in southern portions. The wintry conditions caused problems for travel until the end of the week for locals and non-locals alike since local roads as well as state highways were impassible.
Commuter students going to the University of West Georgia were particularly distressed and grateful that the decision was made to close the Carrollton campus.
“It’s always really stressful making that drive in bad weather,” said Katie Abernathy, a business student at UWG living in Newnan and commuting to Carrollton. “But ice adds a new layer of danger to it all. It’s hard when classes are not cancelled in Carrollton because you never want have an accident.”
The snow was not the only reason they were grateful for the Carrollton campus being closed. On that same day, the state of Georgia was put under a state of emergency, and Coweta County issued a strict 5 p.m. curfew, punishable by a high fine of over $1000 or even 60 days of jail time for those unable to pay. Only those working in emergency and medical services such as first responders and nurses at hospitals were exempt to the consequences of the curfew.
“I would have been stuck in Carrollton if I had to go to my classes that day,” said Abernathy. “It seemed a bit excessive to me.”
While it was true that the curfew and its harsh penalties caused some controversy among citizens of Coweta county, police officers ultimately felt that it was for the best given the conditions of the roads due to the winter storm.
“Whenever the state is put under a state of emergency, a curfew is instated,” said Deputy Chris Segrest of the Coweta County Sheriff Office. “It is normally mainly for schools, day cares, and institutions involving kids. However, the road conditions were so bad that we needed to enforce one in this case. It was really to keep road personnel, local law enforcement, and emergency workers, as well as citizens safe. The consequences needed to be stated, but we mainly wanted to avoid even the possibility of accidents happening.”
In the end, neither the Coweta County Sheriff Office or Newnan Police Department made any arrests, and no citations were issued from the curfew. The curfew only lasted until early Friday morning, but the snow and ice patches on the roads did not completely clear until days later when temperatures climbed high enough to melt the snow and ice.
Though the winter storm was severe and travel difficult, the amount of accidents from cars being on the road was kept to a minimum due to the curfew, making the jobs of police officers easier. Other issues such as power outages and downed trees were also able to be kept at a minimum due to resources not being spent on clearing car accidents.