Damage light from Irma, but power issues linger

The Athens area got lots of downed trees, widespread road blockages and power outages Monday, but seemed to mostly escape major property damage.

 

In a few places, including on Boulevard in Athens, trees fell on houses, inflicting serious damage, and vehicles here and there, including an Athens-Clarke police car, were damaged by falling trees or limbs.

However, emergency response managers in Clarke, Oconee and other area counties said those were few.

“We were very fortunate in that respect,” said Oconee County Emergency Management Agency Director C.J. Worden.

Gauges on the University of Georgia campus recorded 3.5 inches of rain and sustained winds of 35 miles per hour with gusts up to 52 mph, said UGA spokesperson Greg Trevor.

On Tuesday morning, a crew was taking down a damaged elm tree near the statue of University of Georgia founding father Abraham Baldwin on UGA’s north campus. But the statue and the nearby historic buildings hadn’t been damaged, he said.

Trevor said the campus had a number of downed trees, but no injuries and no serious structural damage.

Campus residence halls experienced some temporary outages, while campus dining halls operated on a reduced schedule, assuring the students wouldn’t go hungry.

Hunger was actually the main issue for many people Monday evening.

Half or more of Georgia Power’s Athens customers lost power, and many set out in the fierce wind to find an open restaurant. However, numerous area restaurants had lost power, and even many that had electricity were closed. Even when they found a restaurant, they often saw long lines as workers tried to keep up with the sudden overwhelming influx of hungry customers.

Homeless shelters reported an overwhelming response when they put out an appeal for help Tuesday.

At Bigger Vision, where about three dozen homeless people sought shelter, an “amazing” number of people and businesses responded to a last-minute appeal for help at the shelter, not normally open at this time of year, said shelter director Andrew Wilkins.

Pulaski Heights BBQ provided a full lunch, for example, and members of Relentless Grace Church showed up to make 150 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Wilkins said.

The Athens Area Homeless Shelter lost its refrigerated food when the power went out, but when the shelter sent out an appeal for help on Facebook.

“We received messages almost instantly,” said shelter operations director Olivia Amato.

Downed trees and power outages remained the main issues in Athens Tuesday afternoon, said Jeff Montgomery, a spokesperson for the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government.

Dozens of streets and roadways were blocked in Athens and surrounding counties, including major Athens thoroughfares such as Milledge Avenue.

By Tuesday afternoon in Oconee and Oglethorpe counties, the streets had been cleared, thanks largely to efforts of volunteer firefighters, other first responders and people who just showed up to help, said Worden and Oglethorpe County Commission Chairman Billy Pittard.

“I’m really proud of the effort we had,” Pittard said. “I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anything worse as far as trees down and roads blocked.”

Crews and volunteers also had cleared most of the damage away in Athens, but some traffic signals are likely to be out for a couple of more days, Montgomery said.

Most people drove carefully with traffic signals out, but some drivers apparently don’t know that when a signal is out, they should treat it as a four-way stop. Athens-Clarke police had to answer some calls to collisions at such intersections.

But Montgomery said he’d heard of no serious injuries either from the storm or from storm-related accidents.

As in many other areas, Oconee County officials were huddling to put together the next phase of a clean-up plan for replacing damaged signs and clearing away debris, Worden said, adding that crews cannot pick up debris from private homes or businesses.

Athens-Clarke County suspended its household leaf and limb pickup temporarily while crews concentrated on cleaning up public areas and roadways.

Follow Lee Shearer at www.facebook.com/LeeShearerABH or https://twitter.com/LeeShearer.

Topics

 

More