It wasn’t the ice pellets pummeling his windows or the chill of 30-degree temperatures without heat that jolted James Wilson awake early Thursday morning.
It was the crackle of an oak tree splitting and the branches crashing through the wooden porch awning on his 100-year-old home on Heard Avenue.
He surveyed the damage while walking to his shed to grill hot dogs for lunch - his only option beyond waiting in the out-the-door line at S&S Cafeteria, he said.
“Yeah, it’s pretty bad,” said Wilson, a retired Georgia Power worker. “But we’ll be OK.”
The promise of a catastrophic and historic storm did not fail to deliver damage and headaches to thousands of residents across the area by the time it quelled Thursday. The winter storm brought down trees and power lines, causing damage to homes and cars and leaving tens of thousands without power.
Prompted by Gov. Nathan Deal’s declaration of a state of emergency, service members from the National Guard were dispatched to the area to help clean up the damage.
The 165th Air Support Operations Squadron brought in four Humvees and 11 service members from Savannah, Ga., who worked to clear debris from roads, remove stuck cars and carry people to shelters.
Lt. Ryan Baker said a mother waved his unit down on Alpine Road on Wednesday and said her children had not eaten in two days.
On Thursday, service members in fatigues were combing National Hills neighborhood, clearing branches from the road.
When it became unbearable to stay inside her frigid house on Murphey Street, Crystal Hatchell huddled on her porch in front of a barbecue with her two children to stay warm.
“We’re not even cooking anything,” Hatchell said. “We’re just trying to warm up.”
The family celebrated her son Nasir’s ninth birthday by candlelight Wednesday and cuddled together in bed when the power went out.
“It’s been hard,” she said. “I almost cried myself to sleep last night it was so cold. But it’s been nice to be together and spend time together as a family.”
Alexis and Travis Foust woke up about 2 a.m. Thursday to see a massive oak tree uprooted and sideways in their neighbor’s front lawn on Central Avenue.
Another tree fell partially sideways toward their home, bringing their power lines down with it.
“We are supposed to go to Disney World on Saturday, so we need to clean this up quick,” Alexis Foust said.
With many Augustans without power, generators, firewood and charcoal turned into hot commodities as people searched desperately for a way to heat their homes and cook.
The 32 generators for sale at opening time at the Home Depot on Bobby Jones Expressway were gone in 30 minutes, store manager Alan Green said.
“A lot of people were caught off-guard,” said Green, who is without electricity himself.
Green worked more than 14 hours Wednesday but was back at the store at 7:30 a.m. for his Thursday shift. Rather than sit in a home without power, he decided, “Let me get in here and see if I can help people.”
The store was running on generator power but, without a shipment of diesel fuel, Green wasn’t sure how long it would stay be open.
“We’re part of the community, too,” Green said.
Outside the store, Tenisha Fulmer was loading two of the last bags of charcoal into her pickup, which a friend had held for her until she could get to the store. She already had made chicken and Ramen noodles on the grill and was looking forward to pork and potatoes but won’t have much food beyond that.
Without firewood for her fireplace, Fulmer was getting creative about how to heat her home.
“We have plenty debris in the yard,” she said. “You have to do what you have to do.”
Chris Senn went to Lowe’s for a gas chain saw and a generator and struck out on both. Eventually, he’ll have to deal with a downed tree at his Glenn Avenue home. But in a house without power “I guess we’ll just be sitting by the fire,” Senn said.
Even though a Valentine’s Day party at her daughter’s day care is bound to be canceled, Elizabeth Adams visited the holiday display at Target to buy candy and valentines for her daughter, Chloe.
Without power at her Goshen home, Adams said, she was making the best of the day.
“We can sit at home and stew or we can do a little shopping,” she said.