The Union Recorder

February 13, 2014

Thousands still powerless, agencies working non-stop

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE —

Baldwin County's timber could only take so much icy buildup from Winter Storm Pax.

Since Tuesday night, broken limbs and even entire trees toppled to the ground damaging property, power lines and leaving thousands without necessary electricity supply.

DeLancey Carson and husband Tim were relaxing at home around 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, when they heard crashing noises outside of their home near the intersection of Kings Road and Highway 24.

“I didn't know if cars had crashed outside,” DeLancey said. “There was lots of electrical cracking and popping. Our lights flickered for a couple seconds and went off. We both ran outside and saw that it toppled two trees.”

One pine tree crushed Tim's car, while DeLancey's car escaped with minor dents. 

“We were thankful we were still safe because cars can be replaced,” she said.

The Carsons stayed with family Wednesday night fearing other trees might fall into their home.

“As we were packing up, smaller branches were falling from one of the huge trees angled toward our house,” DeLancey said. “We were not staying.”

Local tree removal companies have run wide open since the ice accumulation began. 

Adam Kennedy from Kennedy & Son Tree Service said Thursday morning calls were picking up as citizens came outside to assess any damage. He said limbs were breaking everywhere.

The tree expert said smaller pine trees were uprooting, while elms were popping at the fork.

Kennedy & Son's bucket truck, chipper and skid-steer did their best to answer the massive amount of winter storm work.

“You do what you can to help everybody,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy said his company was mostly clearing out driveways. 

The 25-year-old tree service business actually saved a home Wednesday night.

“We had a tree uprooted about to fall on a house,” Kennedy said. “We cut it and made it miss the house.”

Drivers stayed off the roads during the worst parts of the ice storm, according to the Georgia State Patrol.

Only one accident occurred through Thursday afternoon.

“It seems that most people stayed at home when they should have, which was exactly what we were hoping for,” Sgt. MacKay Bloodworth, from GSP Post 33 in Milledgeville, said.

Downed trees caused multiple Hancock County road closures. 

“The Hancock County area was by far the worst. There was a complete difference in accumulation, damage and outages between Baldwin and Hancock,” Bloodworth said.

Troopers from Georgia areas not severely affected by the ice came to help Post 33. GSP also teamed with the Baldwin County Sheriff's Office Wednesday night to halt traffic due to grounded power lines and trees.  

Bloodworth said troopers were out with “personal chainsaws” cutting trees. There were no off days this week.

“There were several troopers that left their families without any power to come and work to get everyone else back on track,” he said. “We couldn't be prouder of the guys at the post coming together working 12-hour plus shifts through the night.”

Bloodworth commended the Baldwin County Road Department for “going constantly from one call to another.”

Milledgeville Police Department Patrol Commander Maj. John Davis said they closed down a stretch of North Columbia Street Thursday due to a tree down in the 100-block of historic district.

Lakeside drive was shut down for some time due to fallen timber in the roadway as well.

“Other than that it's been mostly power outages throughout the night,” Davis said.

Reports of city traffic signals outages came from the Log Cabin and Meriwether Road area.

Davis urged citizens to call MPD if they noticed a light out.

“We just don't have the resources to man every light,” he said Thursday.

MPD reported two minor weather related traffic accidents on the West Bypass Bridge near Georgia College's West Campus.

“It was really icy (Wednesday) night,” Davis said. “That was probably the worst spot we had in the town.”

MPD said fortunately elderly and others without heat had warming shelters available at Northside Baptist Church and The Fun! Factory.

Georgia Power spent the overnight hours on Wednesday relocating and repositioning restoration crews to areas of the state impacted by the severe snow and ice, according to a company press release.

Beginning at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, a total of 554,000 statewide GP customers experienced service interruption from Winter Storm Pax.

More than 8,000 GP employees, contractors and workers from other utilities were deployed and worked to restore power to customers. 

By 5 p.m. Thursday, 6,170 Baldwin County GP customers lacked power. 

Tri-County EMC's Facebook page said Thursday morning over 16,000 Tri-County EMC members were powerless. 

This represented 77 percent of the cooperative's total meters and is easily the largest outage in the cooperative's 75-year history. 

The utility said outages restored on Wednesday were essentially all lost again overnight as ice-covered trees continued falling. 

Additional linemen from cooperatives in Arkansas, Florida and Alabama are helping Tri-County.

At press time Thursday, 3,144 Baldwin Tri-County customers had service disruption.