High winds from a series of severe storms felled dozens of trees and left nearly 20,000 Athens residents temporarily without power this Independence Day weekend.
Crews from the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government, Georgia Power and the Georgia Department of Transportation worked around the clock to clear roadways of debris and restore power to those affected after the storms on Saturday and Tuesday nights.
As many as 15 utility poles and 30 spans of wire were downed, either snapped by the wind or pulled down by falling trees, said Georgia Power spokeswoman Christy Terrell.
“When you have poles coming down like this, that is typical with the strong winds you see in hurricanes or tornadoes,” Terrell said. “This was a lot for a summer storm.”
Saturday night’s storm left about 13,000 Georgia Power customers without power, Terrell added.
“We brought in line crews from other areas of the state to assist our guys,” she said. “We had all of the power restored within 13 hours.”
The storm on Independence Day left even more Athens residents without power.
“The damage was widespread, and at the peak there were about 5,100 customers without power,” Terrell said, but added that power had been restored within five hours.
In addition to power issues, several roadways were blocked by fallen trees.
A heavily-traveled section of South Milledge Avenue was closed Wednesday after a large tree fell Tuesday night into the street and large portions of Oglethorpe Avenue were closed Saturday night and Sunday after multiple trees were downed by the storm.
In all, the ACC Streets and Drainage Division, along with ACC Landscape Management Department, cleared more than 40 trees off of roadways during Independence Day weekend. The ACC Solid Waste Department is suspending household leaf and limb pickup for the rest of the week to assist with the cleanup efforts.
“Normal storms, we only have a few trees down; five at the most,” said Kevin Gentry, Streets and Drainage superintendent. “This was definitely a significant event.”
Gentry added that most of the trees they removed from the roadways were “green,” or alive when they went down.
“This wind must have been substantial to do that kind of damage,” he said.