2017-09-13 / Front Page

Irma knocks out power across state

3,700 in Burke
By Diana Royal

Irma's heavy winds sent this tree straight through the rooftop of an Oak Lane residence. Irma's heavy winds sent this tree straight through the rooftop of an Oak Lane residence. By noon Monday, most of Waynesboro was a wet ghost town, and reports of power outages steadily increased across the county. As rain pelted the area, businesses closed and the Burke County EMA asked that everyone get off and stay off the roadways. Before nightfall, many areas had experienced flooding, downed trees, debriscovered roadways, homes and businesses, and local shop owners were reporting water damage.

As of late yesterday (Tuesday) evening, hundreds of thousands of Georgia residents remained without power. Georgia Power reported around 2:30 p.m. that linemen had already restored power to 270,000 customers following Hurricane Irma but that 680,000 were still without. Locally, including outages from various power suppliers, approximately 3,700 Burke County homes lost power as a result of Irma, and at press time, around 1,500 were still in the dark.

This silo on Brigham Landing Road was destroyed during Monday's storm. This silo on Brigham Landing Road was destroyed during Monday's storm. Jacob Hawkins, a spokesperson for Georgia Power, said the company is working around the clock and assessing damage, but that “customers should plan ahead for the potential of extended outages, possibly days or weeks, due to the vast damage from the storm.” In order to complete damage assessment, he said, conditions must be deemed safe for their crews, and they face further challenges from downed trees, blocked roads and also bridges that must be inspected by the state following a flood. In addition to the more than half a million customers without power state-wide, Georgia Power reported nearly 10,000 cases of individual damage or trouble, which includes broken poles and lines.

According to Burke EMA reports, Irma brought approximately five inches of rain to various areas of the community, and the highest wind gust was around 50 miles per hour. BCEMA received 34 reports of trees or power lines down and roadways needing clearing. Ambulances responded to 17 EMS calls, with 11 being transports. Burke County’s Public Works responded to 31 locations to assist with downed trees and blocked roadways. The Burke County Sheriff’s Office also reported responding to 60 calls of the same nature. Between the two agencies, more than 350 calls for assistance were received.

Georgia DOT has reported that 250 traffic lights across the state are malfunctioning as a result of Irma and encouraged drivers to slow down and treat those intersections as a fourway stop.

“A lot of coordination goes into managing emergencies, weather events, etc., and we cannot do our jobs well without help from others,” Amylia Lester, Public Information Officer for Burke EMA said. “We would like to take this opportunity to thank those who followed instructions during Hurricane Irma. Due to most residents following directions and staying off the roadways, we had zero calls to respond for motor vehicle accidents on Sept. 11.”

The same could not be said during the days leading up to the storm front, as evacuees headed north through Burke County. BCSO Chief Deputy Lewis Blanchard reported one accident last Friday afternoon that resulted in injury, and said drivers were traveling at speeds nearing 100 miles per hour.

“The sheriff’s office is expecting traffic to be heavier over the next couple of days as people return at various times depending on the damage or flooding in their areas,” he said.

“Our main goal is to ensure that everyone who is returning home returns home safely. We have units posted along the highway hoping their high visibility will keep people driving appropriately.”

Return to top