Rain continued to fall Monday morning with winds starting to pick up, and thousands were without power in the Augusta area as Tropical Storm Irma churned up the southwest side of the state hundreds of miles away.
Georgia Power reported 599 customers in the Hill area without power and 609 in the Turpin Hill area as of 3 p.m, with more than 6,050 overall in the dark in Richmond County and 6,627 in Columbia County. The company had more than 674,000 customers without power across the state, with the majority of them in counties much further south of Augusta.
SCE&G had more than 252 customers without power near Langley, with 6,733 outages across Aiken County and 384 in Edgefield County. Aiken Electric Cooperative had 4, 555 customers without power in Aiken County, as well as 881 in Edgefield County. Jefferson Electric Cooperative had 2,670 customers without power in a swath from Columbia County down to Emanuel County.
As winds continued to pick up, Burke County Sheriff’s Office reported multiple trees down and traffic lights out, as well as some power lines that were down. There were also reports of downed trees in Richmond and Aiken counties.
Augusta Regional Airport had flights arrive this morning from Atlanta and one departed at 9:26 for Charlotte but the next six flights were canceled, although one leaving at 6:05 p. m. for Atlanta remained on schedule.
AU Medical Center had treated 103 evacuees as of Monday but has also helped mobilize 250 volunteers, with the East Central Health District and Medical Reserve Corps, to provide care directly at the shelters so that evacuees did not have to go to the Emergency Room, said Dr. Phillip Coule, associate chief medical officer. Everyone from AU President Brooks Keel to staff to students and members of the university baseball team were at shelters working with patients and evacuees, said CEO Lee Ann Liska.
“It’s been a great team effort,” she said. “We couldn’t be more proud of our AU family.” There is an ongoing need for more volunteers to help, Liska said.
At University Hospital, there were 25 nursing home patients evacuees at University Extended Care Amara, 21 at University Hospital Summerville, and one at Westwood. There were three patients transferred to the hospital and eight seen in the Emergency Department, with one admitted and four still being evaluated, according to spokeswoman Rebecca Sylvester. Four evacuees were seen at the Summerville Emergency Department and nine were seen at Prompt Cares, she said. Two pregnant women from shelters got checked out at the hospital Monday afternoon but were able to return to the shelter, Sylvester said.
Doctors Hospital had treated 20 evacuees as of Monday, with five still hospitalized, including two in critical condition from injuries not related to the storm, according to spokeswoman Lynthia Owens. Three evacuees from shelters were treated and released back to the shelter, she said.
The Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center said it would close its Statesboro clinic on Tuesday and delay the opening of its Athens clinic Tuesday until 1 p.m. The hospitals in Augusta and the Aiken Clinic remain open. Approximately 50 appointments will be affected and those veterans will be contacted to reschedule, the medical center said in a news release.
The National Weather Service still has a high wind advisory in effect for Augusta and surrounding counties until 2 a.m. Tuesday and a flash flood watch until 2 a.m. Flooding of the Savannah River could be possible in following days, according to the weather service. Winds were beginning to pick up at Daniel Field at 24 mph, with some gusts up to 48 mph, according to the weather service.
Augusta University cancelled classes and all activities for Monday and Tuesday and closed its campuses but the health system is still operating as scheduled. Paine College also closed its campus Monday although essential personnel were still working. The college will reopen at noon Tuesday.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a release over the weekend that said the dams at Lake Thurmond and Lake Hartwell are capable of retaining the expected rainfall, which could raise the drought-stricken level of Lake Thurmond about six feet, about half of the flood storage capacity for the dams.
The Corps urged caution on the Savannah River below the dams, however, because of rainfall into unregulated tributaries into the river. The Corps will halt discharges from the dam if the flow in the river is predicted to rise above its capacity of 30,000 cubic feet per second.
Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213