Commissioners rally to help Augusta residents after ice storm

When the ice storm hit last week, bringing down trees and power lines and leaving most folks without heat or electricity, Commis­sion­er Joe Jackson was prepared.

“I’m an Eagle Scout, and I’m prepared,” he said Saturday during a break from cutting up limbs in his neighbor’s yard.

“My neighbor lost nine trees, and I’ve already cut them up,” he said. “I’m not going to sit back and let the government do it.”

Earlier in the day, he’d been lending a hand in the Mont­clair subdivision in west Augusta.

“I was getting the limbs cut up so they can get the power back on,” he said.

Before the storm moved into the area Wednesday, bringing devastation to the landscape and despair to the cold-natured, Jackson was prepared with a generator, a freezer full of food, a charcoal grill, a camp stove, a camper, 12 bottles of propane gas, diesel fuel and a tractor that he’s using to help folks get big piles of limbs out of their yards.

He’s also invited his neighbors to shower and warm up at his home.

“It goes back to if you don’t know your neighbors, you need to get to know your neighbors,” Jackson said. “That’s what makes a strong community and a strong neighborhood. It’s about knowing your neighbors and helping people in need.”

He had nothing but praise for the Augusta government, Georgia Power and the out-of-state crews trying to clean up and get the power back.

“They responded fast,” he said. “It was just so catastrophic.”

He also issued this advice about emergency preparedness: “The whole thing about emergency preparedness is be prepared.”

That sounds about right.

 

“BAD NEWS BRINGS OUT THE BEST”: Commissioner Donnie Smith, a Georgia State Pa­trol lieutenant, said he’d been in charge of getting troopers to Augusta since Tues­day and was working with the state Department of Transportation to develop a plan for restricting commercial trucks from the interstate.

“We were working on how we were going to detour them off the interstate and where we would stage them because we didn’t want the same thing that happened two weeks ago that shut the interstate down in Atlanta,” he said.

“Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, we were shuttling troopers from out of town to Augusta to help the sheriff departments in Rich­mond and Columbia counties,” he said. “Troopers helped direct traffic at inter­sections that didn’t have power. At night, they patrolled neighborhoods and businesses to prevent crimes and looters on closed businesses.

“I’m really proud of Augusta-Richmond County,” Smith added. “The sheriff’s department took administrative people and formed 28 teams of deputies who went out and worked on getting trees and limbs out of streets. They were very well organized.”

Georgia Power’s storm response has been “tremendous,” and Pike Electric workers out of Ohio have been working non-stop to get power back, Smith said.

Also, Augusta’s solid waste department under the direction of Mark Johnson was out early picking up trash and storm debris.

“Bad news brings out the best in people,” Smith said. “People who haven’t spoken in years are out helping each other. People are opening up their homes to others. It’s refreshing to see our country can pull together when we’re fighting for some cause.”

Smith’s west Augusta Dis­trict 7 was the second hardest-hit district behind Dis­trict 3 in the Hill section, he said.

“I’ve been in every neighborhood talking to people,” he said. “Most people are really understanding.”

 

“A WAR ZONE”: District 3 Commissioner Mary Davis said the district looks like a war zone.

“It’s hard to describe,” she said Saturday. “We still don’t have power, and I’ll be shocked if we get it tomorrow. They’re having to work on the power grid. They’re telling me it’s going to be weeks of cleaning up.

“The good thing is there were no fatalities. … It’s sad losing old trees.”

 

STILL COLD, BUT GRATEFUL: Commissioner Bill Lockett said he and many others had no power Saturday and that there was an extensive amount of damage in his District 5.

“But I must give accolades to the people from out of state, our people trying to get things cleaned up and the power back on. It’s just a matter of time until we’ll all be made whole.”

“Power is one of many things we take for granted,” he said. “It still could have been worse. It could have been much worse. Times like these bring people together. Even in good weather, I’d like to see people like they are now.”

 

WE FELT THE EARTH MOVE: When the earth quaked at 10:23 p.m. Friday, Lockett said he thought it was another tree falling in his backyard.

“Better live today to the max because there might not be a tomorrow,” he said.

“It scared the hell out of me when it was going on,” Donnie Smith said.

Joe Jackson said he asked his brother, Tommy, whether he felt the quake.

“Tommy said it was a helicopter,” he said.

Davis said at first she thought it was a helicopter.

“The whole house shook,” she said. “I called my mother. I think Mother Na­ture is in a bad mood.”

District 10 Commissioner Grady Smith said his wife, Cathy, thought one of the trucks being used in the cleanup must have struck a gas line.

“My daughter called from Winston Salem, N.C., and she had gotten a call from someone in Raleigh,” he said.

Marion Williams said he thought a transformer must have blown.

“That’s a first for me in Au­gusta in my lifetime. If I hadn’t felt it, I might not have believed it,” he said.

Commissioner Wayne Guil­foyle said he and a friend had walked to Guil­foyle’s pool house and they didn’t hear it or feel it although his wife in the house did.

 

TWO VIEWS ON THE BAD NEWS: They say bad luck comes in threes. So an ice storm and an earthquake in one week really makes you stop and ask, “What’s next?”

Williams, however, said the third bad-luck event has already been visited upon us: It was the earthquake. The ice storm was the second and the snowstorm two weeks ago was the first. Only a swarm of locusts could convince him otherwise.

Commissioner Grady Smith said, “The good Lord had this storm come on to get us to focus on something else besides Marion Williams trying to get Fred Russell’s hard drive.”

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