Big Canoe weather conditions

The following is a report from the Big Canoe POA about weather conditions in Big Canoe. The article showcases how the staff and community pitch in when the4 need arises. Kudos to the staff members who braved the icy mountain roads to make their way to Big Canoe.

Roads Update: As of 11:15 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 16, the gates and roads of Big Canoe were still closed according to Roger Klask, general manager. No time has been set to open Big Canoe’s roads.

Wednesday evening through Thursday morning residents were parking in the Wildcat parking lot and being transported to the Sconti Clubhouse for housing. Bill Bates, director of public safety, said there were 84 stranded residents and seven clubhouse staff members overnight at the clubhouse. They were served dinner Wednesday, breakfast and lunch on Thursday and told they would be allowed to leave just as soon as the roads become drivable for them.

Klask said, “Above 2,000 feet driving is prohibitive and lower elevations are still iffy.”

Additional clubhouse staff, including Chef Tuleo, and additional public safety and road maintenance personnel were able to make it to Big Canoe and aid in caring for those stuck at the clubhouse.

One woman on oxygen with back problems rested on the floor all night. Toby Jones, supervisor of roads and trails, was able to transport her safely to her home on Petit Ridge Thursday morning by using his four wheel drive and chains.

Klask said he had heard nothing but good comments on both the Sconti staff and public safety and road crews as they worked to take care of stranded residents.

The story continues…
Freezing rain and black ice early Wednesday evening began in Cherokee County and brought their headaches, crushed steel and melded cars incidents to Steve Tate Highway, outside Big Canoe’s main gate. No injuries were reported in the multicar demolition style derby, according to Harold Spence with Big Canoe Public Safety.

Earlier inside the gates while people were trying to make their way home from work and Christmas shopping, Becca Weck, event planner at the Sconti Clubhouse, was trying to talk Tom Gambeski into postponing his party of 30 people for 5:30 p.m. or at the very least move the hour up because of the incoming freezing rain. According to Weck the homeowner refused.

The guests arrived and shortly after were told by public safety shift supervisor Todd Lanning to leave and get home while they could. At first, Gambeski and guests refused the road warning but eventually left the club, according to public safety personnel. As a result eight club employees had to spend the night at the clubhouse as roads in the northern counties worsened hourly and hundreds of wrecks clogged highways and thoroughfares.

Sleep over at the Sconti clubhouse

Another wintry scene from ’09. (Photo by Bob Crouch)

However, the staff was not to be alone for long. At 7 p.m., as cars slipped off the roads in Big Canoe trying to reach home, Lanning ordered all the gates closed to incoming traffic.

Residents were directed to the Wildcat parking lot where they sat with motors running to keep warm and waited their fate. Becky Mosher, an eight-year employee on the gate staff, said there must be at least 20 cars in the parking lot. All through the night and early morning hours more cars arrived and were taken to the club house.

Also at 7 p.m. Pickens County sent out a recorded message from County Commissioner Rob Jones for people to stay off the roads. The calls were received by Dawson County residents in Big Canoe as well.

“I’ve never seen anything like it. Some people are waiting in their cars; some are here in the North Gate House with me and I understand public safety is going to transport all of them to the clubhouse to join the others there,” she said.

There was speculation some of these car occupants off in ditches could very well be returned to the club they had resisted leaving earlier. Because of the dangerous roads, no one was being taken home but gathered at the clubhouse for later, safer transport home.

One spreader truck pressed into action
David Fitts from the maintenance department made it on property to crank up a spreader truck and try to provide a path for public safety to cars off the roads in Big Canoe. A call went out at 7:15 p.m. for all public safety and maintenance personnel who could get to Big Canoe to do so. Only a few were able to navigate their way from home to help employees already slammed with calls from residents.

One blue van off the road near Quail Cove and Woodland Trace was so far off the road public safety personnel could not reach the car without putting themselves in danger. Harold Spence, public safety officer, drove a blazer patrol car with chains to Dawson Fire Station #6 on Hubbard Road and picked up Dawson personnel, rope and extrication equipment to help get the occupants out. One man was taken to Big Canoe’s Village Station #3 temporarily with what is believed to be a broken elbow.

In all of this icy mess, wrecker truck owners were seeing their Christmas pockets lined with gold, insurance adjusters a nightmare of claims, rental car companies were prepping their wares for the unfortunate and car dealers were tying bigger red bows for those needing new vehicles just in time for Christmas. And winter doesn’t officially arrive until December 21.

Earlier in the week Sanderlin Mountain reported two inches of snow fall and dangerous roadways all over Big Canoe as frigid temperatures below the teens gripped the upper elevations. Gates were closed Monday, December 13, to visitors and contractors but reopened once maintenance road people had scraped and spread their sand and gravel mixture about the property. The postal trucks were escorted to Big Canoe postal facility Monday by public safety. However, UPS and FEDEX chose not to attempt deliveries Monday.