Many Athens-area residents left powerless in Irma’s wake

Many Athens area residents awoke Tuesday morning with no electrical power as crews worked to remove trees downed by Tropical Storm Irma and others repaired power lines.

 

Indeed, the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office issued an alert at about 7 a.m. Tuesday asking residents to avoid travel due to multiple malfunctioning traffic signals. The Athens-Clarke County Police Department released a list of more than 20 roads closed in Athens, and its Facebook page includes several photos taken by officers of trees blocking roadways and hanging over power lines.

A Georgia Power outage map detailed more than 150 outages leaving 17,000 customers without power in the Athens area Tuesday morning. By Tuesday at 4 p.m., that number had dropped to less than 11,000 without power.

More than 3,500 were without power in and around downtown Athens, and nearly 1,800 Georgia Power customers were in the dark in East Athens.

Another outage around Five Points and along South Milledge Avenue left an additional 3,000 customers without power in Athens.

By Tuesday afternoon, however, many of these areas had their power restored, including Five Points and parts of West Broad Street.

By 10 p.m. on Tuesday, three fourths of Georgia Power customers in the Athens area who lost power had the lights back on. 4,000 were still without power.

At the storm’s peak, the state’s largest electrical utility was dealing with nearly 8,500 outages statewide affecting nearly 1 million customers, said Georgia Power spokesperson Ashley West. As of 10 a.m. Tuesday, that number had been reduced to 780,000 without power thanks to the nearly 5,500 Georgia Power and assisting utility personnel working to restore power to the state.

By 4 p.m. Tuesday, the number of Georgia Power customers without power statewide dropped to 620,00o. The number fell to 400,000 by 10 p.m. Tuesday.

“To complete the restoration as quickly and safely as possible, the company has mobilized approximately 6,000 field personnel,” West said, adding that linemen from 23 states are assisting Georgia Power with it’s restoration efforts.

A Georgia Power press release cited several challenges to restoring power, including downed trees, blocked roads and flooded bridges, but added that Georgia’s advanced power grid system allows “the company to reroute and restore power even when weather conditions prevent work in the field.”

“We’re seeing the number of outages decrease pretty quickly thanks to our crews being out there and our smart grid,” West said. “It’s definitely a combination that shows our customers that we are out there working to get their power restored.”

While the number of Georgia Power outages has already been reduced by a third, West added that the sheer number of outages makes it difficult to predict when everyone’s power will be restored.

“We just ask our customers to be prepared just in case it does take days or weeks because of the large number of outages,” she said.

Nearly half of the Walton EMC customers in Watkinsville were without power as of 10 a.m. Tuesday, according to its outage map. The outlook was much the same across the rest of Oconee County.

By 4 p.m. Tuesday, Walton EMC crews had restored power to 80 percent of its Watkinsville service area.

By 10 p.m., 97 percent of Walton EMC customers in Oconee County had power, and 92 percent had it in Clarke County.

Walton EMC, which serves southeast Athens and the surrounding areas, worked Tuesday to restore power to 40,000 customers across its service area. Thirty-six additional linemen from nearby EMCs helped with the power restoration efforts.

Jackson EMC reported nearly 16,000 of its customers were without power in Jackson, Clarke, Barrow and Madison counties Tuesday morning, and more than 60,000 were without power across Jackson EMC’s service area.

By Tuesday afternoon, the company had restored power to more than a third of affected customers, including more than 1,000 in Athens-Clarke County.

By 10 p.m. on Tuesday, Jackson EMC had restored power to 90 percent of its customers.

“We have had crews working around the clock, and we’ll continue working around the clock until all outages are taken care of,” said April Sorrow, a spokeswoman for Jackson EMC. “We were prepared for the storm response, but there was nothing we could do to prevent the outages. Now, we’re just doing everything we can to have our members’ power restored.”

Two hundred additional crew members and contractors from neighboring utilities were helping restore power to Jackson EMC customers. Another 175 are on the way from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Minnesota and Indiana to help and will be in action Wednesday, Sorrow said.

Those in need of help with downed trees and power lines should call:

  • For downed trees blocking a street in Athens, call the ACC Streets and Drainage Department at (706) 613-3465 during normal business hours. After hours, call the Athens-Clarke County Police Department at (706) 546-5900.
  • For downed trees blocking a street in Oconee County, call the Oconee County Road Department at (706) 769-3912 or the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office non-emergency line at (706) 769-3945
  • To report a power outage, downed power line or to check the status of an outage, call Georgia Power 24 hours a day at 1-888-891-0938. You can also report an outage online at georgiapower.com/storm.
  • Walton EMC customers should call (770) 267-2505 or visit waltonemc.com to report an outage or downed line.
  • Jackson EMC customers should call 1-800-245-4044 or visit outage.jacksonemc.com to report an outage or downed line.
  • The ACC Unified Government has set up a non-emergency line to call for information about the hurricane and where to seek shelter. Call (706) 613-3330 or visit athensclarkecounty.com/irma.
  • In case of an emergency, call 911.

 

Check OnlineAthens.com for the latest on power outages in the Athens area.

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