Weather

More News | Local Forecast | DATABASE: Historic Weather Data

Augusta hardest hit statewide for power outages

Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014 12:26 PM
Last updated 10:14 PM
  • Follow Government

The constant sound of chain saws could be heard humming across the Augusta area Thursday as utility workers and sheriff’s deputies worked to clear the wreckage left by what meteorologists are calling an ice storm for the ages. They planned to work into the weekend.

Back | Next
Huge trees fell near Forest Hills Apartments off Walton Way. Hundreds of thousands of people across the region lost electricity.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Huge trees fell near Forest Hills Apartments off Walton Way. Hundreds of thousands of people across the region lost electricity.

SLIDESHOW: DEAL VISITS

View more photos from the event

SLIDESHOW: WINTER STORM

View more photos from the event

The National Weather Service in Columbia reported that the winter storm dumped more than an inch of ice on Aiken County and three-quarters inches across the rest of the Augusta area.

Much of the storm passed about 9 p.m. Wednesday, but after it left, ice-coated tree branches and power lines came crashing down, leaving many roads and bridges impassable and hundreds of thousands of people in the dark across the state, the majority in Richmond and Columbia counties.

Georgia Power brought in more than 8,000 workers from as far north as Tennessee and as far south as Florida in hopes of having the vast majority of power outages restored by Saturday, a company spokesman said.

To help clear the way for power crews, the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office e-mailed an all-hands bulletin to its deputies between 10 and 11 p.m. Wednesday. Lt. Calvin Chew, spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said that even before the alert was sent, off-duty road patrol officers arrived to help.

“They came in on their own accord,” he said. “It’s their town, too, and they want to make sure it is safe and secure.”

Chew said more than 100 deputies were divided into 27 groups of four, and each was given one to two chain saws to clear impassable bridges and major roads, which dominated the office’s 911 calls Thursday.

A small contingent of officers was reserved to respond to traffic wrecks, criminal calls and security alarms triggered by the inclement weather, which Chew said was minimal.

“It’s all over,” said Chew of the ice, which he said police hoped to have cleared by the end of the day.

Georgia Power spokesman Tony Gonzalez said Wednesday’s storm caused more than 540,000 customers to lose electricity from the accumulations of ice that felled trees and power lines. Most of those customers were in counties over a wide swath of middle Georgia along the Interstate 20 corridor.

There were about 97,000 customers in the region without power Thursday night, according to Brian Green, another Georgia Power spokesman.

Green said there were as many as 186,000 people without power across the Augusta area during the storm’s peak.

About 6 p.m. Thursday, Jefferson Energy Cooperative reported that 20,084 customers in its service area were without electricity. There had been about 27,000 without service 12 hours earlier on Thursday morning, according to company spokesman Steve Chalker.

In Columbia County, about 31,000 Columbia County residents remained without electricity Thursday night, according to Columbia County Emergency Operations Director Pam Tucker.

Gonzalez said the magnitude of the damage meant that some Georgia Power customers could expect to be without electricity through Saturday.

He said warming temperature would help melt the ice, but wind could bring down more weakened limbs and cause more problems in coming days.

Richmond County Disaster Preparedness Coordinator Mie Lucas said no significant injuries were reported.

Tucker said two people, an adult and a child, were injured by fallen trees. The adult needed stitches, and the child’s condition was not immediately known.

“Considering the massiveness of this storm, we fared very well,” Tucker said.

Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross said the sheer number of fallen trees and damaged power lines makes it difficult to get a handle on the cleanup required. He said that local Georgia National Guard units are prepared to pitch in if needed, but thus far he hasn’t called on their help.

“The big thing we are facing is getting the power back on,” he said Thursday morning. “We’re on emergency power at the (Emergency Operations Center), but I think we’ve found an alternate source of fuel to keep the generators running.”

Cross said a Georgia Power representative told him the company had more than 1,500 workers in the area attending to storm-related problems.

Dan Miller, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Columbia, said that according to Augusta ice storm records kept since 2000, only the inch of sleet that dropped on the area in December 2004 compares to the current storm.

“This was an ice storm of historic proportions,” he said. “It was really an unusual event.”

The Chavous family of North Augusta remembers the 2004 storm and said this year’s storm was much worse because of the size of the trees that fell.

“We’ve got a yard that looks like a war zone,” said Wayne Chavous, who counts himself lucky that his power was out only a few hours.

Insurance companies reported that their offices are already receiving claims of fallen limbs, frozen pipes and ice-related car accidents, but said it is still too early to speculate on the total impact.

“We encourage everybody to listen to the local authorities and weather advisories and to above all, be safe,” said Elizabeth Stelzer, a spokeswoman for Nationwide Insurance, which had 34 Georgia homeowners and 66 South Carolina homeowners already file claims.

Daniel Groce, a spokesman for Allstate Insurance, said most homeowners’ policies cover direct physical loss to insured property resulting from a freeze. Terms and conditions will apply, and homeowners might want to take time to review their policy or contact their agent to discuss coverage.

The only residential area not greatly affected by the winter storm was Fort Gordon.

“There is storm debris – primarily tree branches – being cleared from the roads and other areas in housing; however, no major issues,” said Maureen Omrod, a spokeswoman for Balfour Betty, the post’s family housing provider. “Thanks to underground utilities, we have no power outages to report.”

The rest of the area was not as lucky.

The American Red Cross reported that more than 200 people sought refuge in emergency shelters in Richmond, Columbia, McDuffie, Jefferson and Jenkins counties.

Staff writers Tom Corwin and Jenna Martin contributed to this article.

Comments (22) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
dichotomy
36284
Points
dichotomy 02/13/14 - 03:19 pm
2
0
AC....how about getting a

AC....how about getting a SWAG from Jefferson Energy. There's lots of us on the normally ignored side of the county who DO NOT HAVE Georgia Power. When their spokesman calls it a catastrophe it kind of gets me all down in the mouth. What does "catasthophe" translate into timeframe?

kissofdeath
474
Points
kissofdeath 02/13/14 - 03:29 pm
0
12
I just rode by a Georgia

I just rode by a Georgia Power's truck parked and driver inside the truck wit his foot propped up on the dashboard. How about running the power lines over the trees and not under the trees. This will deter a lot of power outages,next time the " Great Ice Storm hits Augusta.

dwb619
101117
Points
dwb619 02/13/14 - 03:42 pm
15
0
foot on the dashboard

May be that's the first time he has been off his feet in the last 36 hours.
Ya' thank?

Gage Creed
18915
Points
Gage Creed 02/13/14 - 05:03 pm
2
0
I feel sorry for the decent

I feel sorry for the decent people that reside on the west side of Walton Way. I imagine your power will be the last to be restored as your neighborhood has been given the kiss of death...

Little Lamb
47987
Points
Little Lamb 02/13/14 - 05:40 pm
3
0
North

Or perhaps I will be the last one. Not only do I live west of Walton Way Ext., I also live in the mythical Shangri La that countryman calls North Richmond. It's cold and dark here tonight.

Gage Creed
18915
Points
Gage Creed 02/13/14 - 06:14 pm
2
0
LL... you will be visited by

LL... you will be visited by 3 magi of North Richmond chose wisely which will restore your power...

oldfella
620
Points
oldfella 02/13/14 - 08:33 pm
1
1
Nice they had a warm up area

Nice they had a warm up area in Patriots Park but....how can you call 311 if your power is out and you can't charge your cell phone to call them? If your car broke down (as mine did) you can't drive up there. Luckily my power came back a couple of hours ago. But I'm sure there are others in my boat - hopefully nobody will fall through the cracks.

KSL
140402
Points
KSL 02/13/14 - 11:48 pm
2
2
Kissofdeath, how about being

Kissofdeath, how about being self sufficient? I was taught that growing up. What happened to you?

KSL
140402
Points
KSL 02/13/14 - 11:51 pm
3
2
I fear for this country. We

I fear for this country. We are ripe for takeover.

wildman
1195
Points
wildman 02/14/14 - 06:52 am
2
5
Nice for some

Glad that 300,000 have power but we are still cold and dark. Trucks up and down our road all day, one from Pike Elec. Informed me that he worked on transmission lines not homes. Ok good for you but please ask those sitting in the parking lot to see what they can do. I was not going to complain about Ga Power because they have a tough job in the weather but Thursday was beautiful and no one will answer the fricking phone or let us know when power will be restored. Maybe I should get a week or two free. That will never happen, our bill will go up. Watch what I'm telling you. Tell Deal to get out of the helicopter and do something. Better yet stay in Atlanta and stop spending my tax dollars.

dichotomy
36284
Points
dichotomy 02/14/14 - 08:21 am
3
0
When do you get that sinking

When do you get that sinking feeling?

When you are walking through the house, on the way to put on your second pair of socks and sweatpants and crawl under the quilts for the second night of no heat........and you walk by a window and notice the property on one side of you has lights on, and the water plant on the other side of you has their security lights on, and the folks across the street has lights on..........and you realize that your line must have one of those problems that won't get fixed until they get down to the onesie/twosie problems after everything else is done.

Jefferson Energy........Old Waynesboro Rd.......next to the Water Plant........COME BACK !!!!!!!

Little Lamb
47987
Points
Little Lamb 02/14/14 - 09:13 am
5
0
Empathy

I feel for you, Dichotomy. I hope today is the day for you (and me, too).

nocnoc
47340
Points
nocnoc 02/14/14 - 09:30 am
2
0
dichotomy - We have had power since yesterday around 11:30am

We're lucky we live 1 block from the power grid/sub-station.

So if you and your wife need something yell.

We're are around the corner.

BTW:
For Jefferson Electric Power outages call Ph.706-547-2167

nocnoc
47340
Points
nocnoc 02/14/14 - 09:41 am
6
1
Gov. DEAL's - educational visit

This is what I hope Gov. Deal went back with.

HOW THE CSRA DOES IT
================
We monitor Weather.gov/Augusta GA and actually read the 10 day forecast and act accordingly.

This is why:
I-520, I-20 and hwys were not jammed with stall /stranded vehicles.

Our Schools closed early, no stranded kids and no frantic parent(s).

Businesses closed early no stranded workers or Shoppers.

Non-emergency traffic was kept to a minimum 1st responders got to where they were needed and to work.

Our Roads were patrolled and kept clear much better than Atlanta,

A lot of CSRA people and elected officials and businesses showed Common Sense and prudence.

Jake
33414
Points
Jake 02/14/14 - 09:57 am
2
0
Ahhh, yes......

Nothing like a catastrophe to bring out the best in some peoples attitudes.

Truth Matters
7825
Points
Truth Matters 02/14/14 - 12:42 pm
6
0
Hey, I am just grateful that

Hey, I am just grateful that my family is safe. Before complaining remember that many of these workers left their families behind in another city or state to come here to help you and your family.

It's okay to be concerned, but not okay to be griping about workers with their feet up.

Red Headed Step Child
4277
Points
Red Headed Step Child 02/14/14 - 01:07 pm
5
0
It's times like these that

It's times like these that make you realize how much you take for granted! I'd be lying if I said I didn't appreciate electricity and heat, but a few days without them allowed me to experience some good things too.

I enjoyed the fact that my sons, without the allure of all the technology they possess (games, internet, TV) actually enjoyed sitting around a table under the glow of several candles while we enjoyed a marathon checkers match! A camp stove allowed us to eat hot meals and thank the good Lord brew a pot of coffee!!

I was thankful for what I had...didn't focus so much on what I didn't. Got creative and made it through. Funny how life is like that sometimes...

corgimom
36788
Points
corgimom 02/14/14 - 04:49 pm
2
0
Kiss of death is one of those

Kiss of death is one of those people that can see catastrophic damage all around them, but still think that they should come first. They come first in their lives, why don't they come first in other people's lives?

corgimom
36788
Points
corgimom 02/14/14 - 04:53 pm
3
1
"I fear for this country. We

"I fear for this country. We are ripe for takeover."

No, we aren't. Look at this storm. It was a catastrophic storm that covered several states, and look how quickly everything is up and running. Nobody is looting, nobody is rioting.

But there are doom and gloom people wherever you go, if it makes you happy to think that we are ripe for a takeover- by whom, you don't say-go ahead.

But we aren't. This storm proves it.

Look at other countries that have catastrophic events- they aren't up and running within 2 to 3 days, like we are.

Truth Matters
7825
Points
Truth Matters 02/15/14 - 12:43 am
0
0
On a lighter side, it will be

On a lighter side, it will be interesting to count the babies born next November!!!

nursebragg
4
Points
nursebragg 02/15/14 - 11:39 pm
0
0
Heph-McBean area

Would like to know where Jefferson Elect are. Power out since Wed am. Came by and looked yesterday after dark, said they would try to have it on by 2-3 am. Saturday night 11:30 pm, still no power. My husband and several neighbors even got the pine tree off the line for them, of course they said we shouldn't have done that, but they aren't getting it done.

Back to Top

Top headlines

Georgia Regents' hospital plan chosen

Georgia Regents Medical Center won a lengthy and hardfought battle over two other Augusta hospitals to build the first hospital in Columbia County, the Georgia Department of Community Health ...
Search Augusta jobs