The treacherous tangle of power lines and tree limbs left in the wake of this week’s ice storm will continue through the weekend for many Augusta-area residents.
Georgia Power spokeswoman Amy Fink said the company has shifted the majority of its available resources, about 2,500 personnel, to the Augusta area, where 78,000 customers remained without power Friday afternoon.
Fink said that by midnight, 95 percent of Augusta customers should be restored.
Jefferson Electric, which serves much of south Richmond, Columbia and Burke counties, reported Friday afternoon that 12,745 of its customers remained without power, out of 27,000 who lost service during the storm.
In Aiken County, 30,000 South Carolina Electric and Gas customers were still without power Friday, spokeswoman Stephanie Jones said. The company anticipates having 90 percent to 95 percent of customers back with service by 11 a.m. Monday, she said.
In a news conference Friday at the Richmond County Emergency Management Office, Mayor Deke Copenhaver said he is confident that power companies are doing their best to restore service lost in what he called the worst storm to hit the Augusta area.
“I feel confident in what they’re doing out there,” he said. “I wish we could have a crew in every neighborhood, but it’s a question of Georgia Power’s resources or our local resources to get crews out to clean up the city as well.”
Crews and residents emerged on the sunny Friday to continue removing debris left in yards, roads and rights-of-way by the ice storm.
Officials in Augusta, North Augusta, Aiken and Columbia County said residents can leave tree limbs and other yard waste at the curb for pickup. Aiken County residents were asked to transport the material to the landfill if possible.
“We’re using what we call best efforts,” said Mark Johnson, Augusta’s environmental services director. “We will not reach everybody, but we are going to get as many as we can.”
Augusta Engineering and Environmental Services departments are implementing staging areas where residents can drop off storm debris. Private contractors are required by city code to haul away any debris they cut.
By this morning, Augusta staging locations will be at Lake Olmstead, across from the CSRA Humane Society at 12 Wood St.; at Eisenhower Park, 1488 Eisenhower Drive; and at the landfill portion on the side of Carrie J. Mays Park, 1014 11th Ave., Johnson said.
The city’s two contracted waste haulers will run yard waste routes today in accessible areas, he said. He said rules regarding the size of yard waste will “be a little flexible” and allow residents to place larger limbs at the curb for pickup.
He said residents should cut them into a size “manageable by human power.” Anything larger, such as a stump dragged to the curb by a vehicle, is too large, Johnson said.
“This is going to be weeks,” he said. “People are going to expect a lot more of us than what we can deliver in a week.”
The staging areas allow the city to better assess the amount of debris being removed for federal damage estimates, city Traffic Engineering Director Steve Cassell said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency could foot all or part of the cleanup bill if the area receives a federal disaster declaration. President Obama signed a Georgia emergency declaration Tuesday, while Gov. Nathan Deal extended the state’s declaration of emergency for 15 counties, including Richmond, Columbia and Burke, until Wednesday.
At least 200 Augusta-Richmond County homes saw storm-related structural damage caused primarily by falling trees, according to a statement from Deal’s office.
Georgia Emergency Management Agency, local and FEMA officials have begun conducting preliminary damage assessments, but the process “will begin in earnest next week” to determine whether to seek a federal disaster declaration, Deal spokesman Brian Robinson said.
GEMA Director Ken Davis said the storm’s costs, including that of restoring power to hundreds of thousands of customers statewide and a massive debris removal effort, appeared likely to meet both the state threshold of $13.6 million and county per capita threshold of $3.50 for the federal declaration.
“I would say that I feel confident that we will get (the funds),” Copenhaver said.
Staff Writer Travis Highfield contributed to this story.