The Union Recorder

March 19, 2013

Storm wrecks property, spirits in Baldwin County

Vaishali Patel
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — Joe and Linda Hardwick buckled down at their home in Griffin during the storm Monday night. They least expected to get a phone call from their neighbor informing them of fallen trees on the roof of their second home on Bentley Circle off of Highway 212.

“This is our vacation home here. We got the call [Monday] night at around 8:30 from our neighbor telling us two trees had fallen on the house and that it didn’t look good,” Linda said Tuesday afternoon after assessing the storm damage. “Luckily there’s very little damage inside and there’s no water damage. There’s a little broken place in the ceiling, but otherwise it looks good on the inside. We feel very blessed and fortunate no more damage has been done than what it already is.”

Like the Hardwicks, thousands of Georgians across the state remained without power Tuesday morning and hundreds endured property damage. Polk County had the highest number of outages statewide with 28,000 reported, followed by Floyd County, Georgia Power officials reported. Baldwin, Bibb and Jones counties also had significant numbers of outages.

“We had two houses damaged, one on Martin Drive and one in Harrisburg. We had no injury and no entrapment. We did have a lot of trees down and had power outages,” Baldwin County Sheriff Bill Massee said Tuesday afternoon. “At this point, the Coopers community on the southwest part of the county is out of power and it will probably be out until sometime around 6 p.m.”

Tri-County EMC reported around 3,500 members scattered throughout its service area were without power around 9 p.m. Monday. By 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, power outages were reported in Baldwin and Jones counties, including areas on Pancras Road, Cox Woodland Road, J.H. Aldridge Road and Highway 49.

“Tri-County EMC crews have been responding to outages since approximately 7 p.m. [Monday] night and hope to have power restored to everyone before normal business hours [Wednesday] morning. As of 6:30 [Tuesday] morning, we had 1,500 members without power mostly concentrated in the south part of our service area, which includes parts of Twiggs, Baldwin and Jones counties,” Tri-County EMC Communications Specialist Kim Bonner said around noon Tuesday. “We had nine broken power poles due to the wind and lightening. Crews will continue to work throughout the day and hopefully bring the number down to 1,000 members without power.”

Georgia Power reported 2,700 power outages in the Milledgeville area around 11 a.m. Tuesday while there were 19,000 outages across the state.

“Around 6:30 p.m. [Monday] night is when things peaked and we saw a height of 18,000 without power. The numbers started going down around 9 p.m. due to crews working throughout the night to get power restored. We’re aiming for restoration by some point [Tuesday] afternoon,” said Brian Green, media spokesperson for Georgia Power. “Across the state, we’ve seen down trees, down power lines and broken poles as the storm rolled through; that’s mirrored throughout the state due to the violent storm.”

Church Central Youth Leader Linnie Avirett along with fellow church members were in disbelief of the church’s interior water and ceiling damage Tuesday afternoon as they waited for an insurance adjuster to confirm the extent of the devastation. The church is located on South Wilkinson Street.

“Right now we don’t know what’s going on until we talk to insurance. There’s damage in the lobby and front office area,” she said. “We will hire a cleanup crew and have volunteers help clean up. But this did not surprise God; he has a plan in motion.”

Baldwin High School also lost power in portions of the school building before being fully restored by 10 a.m. Tuesday. Students in classrooms without electricity were relocated to areas with power to continue academic instruction.

“I got here around 6:50 a.m., and that’s when I noticed there was a problem. The CTAE building and [a few] of the halls were without power,” Dr. Jeremy Dockery said, high school assistant principal. “As buses arrived in the morning, we followed our normal routine where students went to the gym or students who wanted breakfast went to the cafeteria. Since the cafeteria also had no power, students were served cereal, milk and pastries. We had normal operations by 8:30 a.m.”

The storm was part of a system that moved across Alabama earlier Monday and hammered areas of the state with high winds, heavy rain and hail the size of golf balls Monday, states the Associated Press. Meteorologists issued tornado warnings for parts of north Georgia, including metro Atlanta, and severe thunderstorm warnings for other areas Monday afternoon. Most warnings in the metro Atlanta area expired around 7 p.m.

The National Weather Service reported a store was destroyed and 12 homes were damaged between Cave Spring and Silver Creek, south of Rome in Floyd County where six people suffered minor injuries in the storm. In Polk County, a man died after a falling tree landed on his truck, and another woman was injured by falling sheet rock when a tree fell onto her house.

Forecasters are expecting another round of severe weather to affect parts of north Georgia later in the week.

On Thursday night, light snow will be possible across much of north Georgia as a fast-moving storm system moves into the area, according to weather service forecasts. No significant accumulations are expected, though the system could leave a dusting of snow in higher elevations, meteorologists said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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