Back-to-back storms in Georgia mean doing repairs all over

SAVANNAH, Ga. — New drywall, new insulation, repaired door frames and fresh paint – Joey Spalding was still finishing repairs at his home on Tybee Island nearly a year after it got flooded by Hurricane Matthew.


The work still wasn’t done Monday when Tropical Storm Irma slogged across Georgia, triggering a storm surge that inundated much of the Atlantic beach community of 3,000 residents with floodwaters. Spalding scrambled to get furniture off the floor as 2 feet of water rose quickly inside the house.

Spalding isn’t the only one starting all over with repairs after Irma struck so soon after Matthew, which caused $500 million in damage when it raked coastal Georgia last October. Irma caused extensive flooding along Georgia’s 100 miles of coast. Portions of coastal South Carolina flooded as well.

Irma killed two people in Georgia and four in South Carolina. The extent of property damage in the Southeast still wasn’t known Tuesday.

Tybee Island Mayor Jason Buelterman estimated several hundred homes had flooded in his community alone, including roughly 200 houses that took in water during Matthew.

While Matthew’s destruction was largely confined to coastal areas, Irma had a much wider path of damage. Tropical storm winds reached more than 400 miles from the storm’s center, toppling trees that crashed onto homes and power lines across a large inland area.

“Statewide, we’re going to have more (insurance) claims than we did with Matthew,” said Jay Florence, Georgia’s deputy insurance commissioner. “But they’re going to be most acute on the coast.”

The storms passing also left many without electricity. More than 894,000 Georgia Power and Electric Membership Corp. customers were in the dark Tuesday afternoon.

Georgia Power spokeswoman Swann Seiler said fewer outside resources were available to help in Georgia because of massive efforts to restore electricity in hurricane-battered Florida and Texas. She said Georgia customers should be prepared to wait several days.

Alabama Power reported 20,000 outages Tuesday morning. No major storm damage was reported in Alabama.

Irma’s remnants forced Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to cancel nearly 200 flights early Tuesday.