Brittney Burns – Staff Writer

One Macon County man is lucky to be alive after spending the weekend lost in the southern end of the county in freezing temperatures and accumulating snow showers. Saturday afternoon, Danny Thomas, 44, has trouble with his jeep along Highway 64 just west of Franklin. Knowing the area, Thomas decided to attempt to walk home, a 10-mile hike to Otto.

When Thomas didn’t arrive home, family members notified authorities around 3 p.m. on Sunday with a request to try to locate him. Emergency workers were dispatched and search crews from West Macon Fire and Rescue, the U.S. Forest Service and the Macon County Sheriff’s Department were able to locate footprints in the area where Thomas was last known to be. Authorities began to track Thomas and followed his footprints for several hours into the forest until he was located just after 8 p.m. on Sunday in an area between Albert Mountain and Coweeta Hydrological Laboratory.

Crews from Otto Fire and Rescue accessed the area from the Ball Creek Road area and worked to get Thomas to safety. The extreme weather conditions of severe cold and heavy snow, combined with the location of the patient, made extraction very difficult.  Temperatures early Sunday morning were in the single digits and were around 12 degrees by the time rescue workers were able to reach Thomas. Emergency workers continued rescue efforts into the night and with the help of chainsaws and all terrain vehicles, were able to clear a path to get Thomas to safety around 1 a.m. on Monday.

Thomas was transported to a waiting air ambulance and was transported to Mission Hospital in Asheville in serious condition facing hypothermia and frostbite. During the rescue efforts, one of the rescuers suffered minor injuries for which he was treated.

The weekend’s winter weather marks the first of the season, but will undoubtedly not be the last. To help the community stay safe, Sheriff Robert Holland noted that individuals should follow the Center for Disease Control’s recommendations on preparing for winter weather.

Take These Steps for Your Home

Many people prefer to remain indoors in the winter, but staying inside is no guarantee of safety. Take these steps to keep your home safe and warm during the winter months.

  • Winterize your home.
  • Install weather stripping, insulation, and storm windows.
  • Insulate water lines that run along exterior walls.
  • Clean out gutters and repair roof leaks.
  • Check your heating systems.
  • Have your heating system serviced professionally to make sure that it is clean, working properly, and ventilated to the outside.
  • Inspect and clean fireplaces and chimneys.
  • Install a smoke detector. Test batteries monthly and replace them twice a year.
  • Have a safe alternate heating source and alternate fuels available.
  • Prevent carbon monoxide (CO) emergencies.
  • Install a CO detector to alert you of the presence of the deadly, odorless, colorless gas. Check batteries when you change your clocks in the fall and spring.
  • Learn symptoms of CO poisoning: headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion.

Don’t Forget to Prepare Your Car

Get your car ready for cold weather use before winter arrives.

  • Service the radiator and maintain antifreeze level; check tire tread or, if necessary, replace tires with all-weather or snow tires.
  • Keep gas tank full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.
  • Use a wintertime formula in your windshield washer.
  • Prepare a winter emergency kit to keep in your car in case you become stranded. The kit should include:cell phone, portable charger, and extra batteries; blankets; food and water; booster cables, flares, tire pump, and a bag of sand or cat litter (for traction); compass and maps; flashlight, battery-powered radio, and extra batteries; first-aid kit; and plastic bags (for sanitation).

Equip in Advance for Emergencies

Be prepared for weather-related emergencies, including power outages.

  • Stock food that needs no cooking or refrigeration and water stored in clean containers.
  • Ensure that your cell phone is fully charged.
  • When planning travel, be aware of current and forecast weather conditions.
  • Keep an up-to-date emergency kit, including:
  • Battery-operated devices, such as a flashlight, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio, and lamps; extra batteries; first-aid kit and extra medicine;baby items; and cat litter or sand for icy walkways.
  • Protect your family from carbon monoxide.
  • Keep grills, camp stoves, and generators out of the house, basement and garage.
  • Locate generators at least 20 feet from the house.
  • Leave your home immediately if the CO detector sounds, and call 911.

Take These Precautions Outdoors

Many people spend time outdoors in the winter working, traveling, or enjoying winter sports. Outdoor activities can expose you to several safety hazards, but you can take these steps to prepare for them:

  • Wear appropriate outdoor clothing: wear a tightly woven, preferably wind-resistant coat or jacket; inner layers of light, warm clothing; mittens; hats; scarves; and waterproof boots.
  • Sprinkle cat litter or sand on icy patches.
  • Learn safety precautions to follow when outdoors.
  • Work slowly when doing outside chores.
  • Take a buddy and an emergency kit when you are participating in outdoor recreation.
  • Carry a cell phone.
  • Do This When You Plan to Travel
  • When planning travel, be aware of current and forecast weather conditions.
  • Avoid traveling when the weather service has issued advisories.
  • If you must travel, inform a friend or relative of your proposed route and expected time of arrival.
  • Follow these safety rules if you become stranded in your car.
  • Stay with your car unless safety is no more than 100 yards away, but continue to move arms and legs.
  • Stay visible by putting bright cloth on the antenna, turning on the inside overhead light (when engine is running), and raising the hood when snow stops falling.
  • Run the engine and heater only 10 minutes every hour.
  • Keep a downwind window open.
  • Make sure the tailpipe is not blocked.

Above all, be ready to check on family and neighbors who are especially at risk from cold weather hazards: young children, older adults, and the chronically ill. If you have pets, bring them inside. If you cannot bring them inside, provide adequate, warm shelter and unfrozen water to drink.