Sylvia Cooper

City Ink columnist and correspondent for The Augusta Chronicle.

Commissioners rally to help Augusta residents after ice storm

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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.”

Comments (18) Add comment
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Riverman1
86979
Points
Riverman1 02/15/14 - 10:42 pm
6
4
I'm sure Deke is leading

I'm sure Deke is leading the clean-up efforts with a chainsaw in each hand.

Brad Owens
4727
Points
Brad Owens 02/15/14 - 11:12 pm
9
1
Kudos...

The sheriff's crews were awesome. It is not their job to do what they did, but they were well organized and went to doing that hard and dangerous work without complaint. Thank you all very much.

Thanks to the City of Augusta crews out the next morning cutting trees up that were across roads and making sure we could pass.

Thanks to the out of town crews all making the difference and staying on what must be long hours to get us back up with power.

This has been an interesting and sometimes tough few days, but all in all I would say we have our stuff wired tight here in the CSRA.

Brad

galaxygrl
1270
Points
galaxygrl 02/15/14 - 11:38 pm
8
0
Great Job

I have to agree with Brad, it was like a well oiled machine in the area. The Pike Electric people were awesome. They got our power before the ice storm and then came back and repaired our neighborhood again. They were serious about their job and worked to complete it! Well done!

dichotomy
34451
Points
dichotomy 02/16/14 - 08:36 am
2
0
Okay, I get it. Everyone who

Okay, I get it. Everyone who has their power back is happy. I'm not happy yet.

deestafford
28715
Points
deestafford 02/16/14 - 09:10 am
6
0
I have nothing but praise for everyone...

I have nothing but praise for everyone for I saw nobody acting uncivil or rude in any way even under very trying circumstances.

There are not enough words nor strong enough vocabulary to express the praise due to the power crews, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and other responders.

Up on the Hill where I live is really hard hit yet everyone is coming through like troopers and taking care of themselves and helping their neighbors.

Augusta...this maybe your finest moment.

InChristLove
22481
Points
InChristLove 02/16/14 - 09:16 am
5
0
In almost every article I

In almost every article I have read there have been raves going to Georgia Power and rightfully so. They've done an awesome job. But I have to give a rave for Jefferson Electric and their out of town help. dichotomy, I understand you are still without power and not happy about it. I probably wouldn't be either. My husband got in his truck and found a crew working in the neighborhood and asked if they could come take care of our problem. It was just an issue where the line had pulled out of the brackets up at the transformer. A simple fix but the whole time they were working you could hear their radios going off directing them to another location. These young men who were from out of the area stayed until we had power and they just as easily could have told us, we have to go and come back later. Thankfully they got us power within about 20 minutes. Maybe you need to place another call to Jefferson Energy. I know they are working as fast as they can.....

nocnoc
45017
Points
nocnoc 02/16/14 - 10:07 am
4
0
document this positive community effort

What we are seeing is:

Family,
Neighbors,
Community,
then and only then Government.

This is the way help should be, not people standing around demanding assistance when they could be doing something.

nocnoc
45017
Points
nocnoc 02/16/14 - 10:17 am
4
0
Example: We still have in-law family,without power,

@ 407# Old Waynesboro Rd. Because GA Power could not get a repair truck on to the dirt road to rehang the power wires.

We armed 3 older Nephews with 20" chain saws and a few neighbors jumped in to help and 4 hours later, the 13 trees that were a problem are gone.

My Brother-in-law and his wife should have power back on today.

Family, Neighbors, Community a process that works.

QUESTION
Do you know who your Neighbors are?

JRC2024
9308
Points
JRC2024 02/16/14 - 10:17 am
6
0
Take the power workers some

Take the power workers some food and something to drink if they are working in front of your home. Fried chicken from the Wife Saver was what we had for lunch yesterday and so did the power workers from Alabama Power. Nice young men.

southern2
6624
Points
southern2 02/16/14 - 11:13 am
2
0
Appreciate the efforts of all

Appreciate the efforts of all involved in the cleanup and restoration of this powerful storm but am puzzled why my son in law was blue lighted by the GSP on Belair Rd for a tag light out right in the middle of all of the other chaotic happenings. He went straight to the auto parts store only to find the light was working.

He received no ticket or warning! Just seemed odd to me.

justthefacts
22728
Points
justthefacts 02/16/14 - 11:17 am
5
0
JRC2024

Class Act. Especially, since it was Wife Saver.

SGT49
2078
Points
SGT49 02/16/14 - 12:35 pm
2
1
Sorry, I have to disagree

Sorry, I have to disagree with ICL. Jefferson has fallen down on the job, again. We reported our outage in Appling as soon as it happened. Last night I looked on their website "Outage Viewer" and our road had not been listed, even though a line was down on the street and one down on our property. I called it in again and finally it showed up on the map. Their map shows outages reported, verified and crews assigned. Only a few outage sections out of many show a crew assigned. Meanwhile in my area we are a mix of GA Power and Jefferson. Crews have been busy working the GA Power areas (easy to tell because of the Comcast lines on the poles ...another Jefferson fail) and I'm sure they are mostly restored. This is the third time in the years we've lived in Appling that Jefferson's outage has extended way beyond the GA Power outage. I'd like to find a way to get on the GA Power line and off Jefferson.

Privy
104
Points
Privy 02/16/14 - 04:19 pm
0
2
Wondering what happened to

Wondering what happened to the city crew responsible for trees? They have gotten very nice pay hikes and are not involved with removing anything other than limbs blocking street signs now.
What has happened to all the equipment they had to remove trees/stumps?
When storms were bad or as bad as this one the whole of Trees and Parks would be out removing limbs and trees from the roads. The roads now are full of hanging limbs in the road and tree debris scattered throughout.
I give credit to the linemen & police officers but for the rest of the city it was BS

Bacon Grease
331
Points
Bacon Grease 02/16/14 - 07:41 pm
2
1
Jefferson Energy sucks my

Jefferson Energy sucks my power was out 4 days not one crew east of I-20 untill today. Don't pay your bill they will break thier neck to get to your house to cut your power off.

Darby
26941
Points
Darby 02/18/14 - 02:00 pm
1
0
"I have to agree with Brad,

it was like a well oiled machine in the area. The Pike Electric people were awesome. They got our power before the ice storm and then came back and repaired our neighborhood again."

.
Guess it depends on just where you were. Some might say "who you are". We went without power for three nights and four days. I'm not complaining. (I was frustrated though.) I would have liked more and better information on the status and direction of the clean-up and repair efforts ongoing. Seems that no matter where you were in the city, you got the same pre-packaged response when you called for an update.

I'm pretty certain that there must have been a central command post but I sure couldn't find one.

That said, I have nothing buy praise for the folks out there doing the "grunt" work. Well done! And thanks!

Darby
26941
Points
Darby 02/18/14 - 02:03 pm
1
0
One more thing...

Neighbors in other folks yards with chainsaws, clearing debris was not the exception, it was the rule.

I was doing that as were many others. It kept me warm and kept me from feeling helpless.

sand gnat
573
Points
sand gnat 02/19/14 - 12:04 am
0
0
Customer Service

On a scale of 1 to 10, I would give The Southern Company, Ga. Power and Al. Power a 10. I would give Comcast a 1. They definitely need to take some customer service classes and response training classes from The Southern Company. I feel a change coming on.

corgimom
34079
Points
corgimom 02/19/14 - 11:29 am
0
0
“My neighbor lost nine trees,

“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.”

Is it ok if I mention that the government never cuts up trees that falls on private property, it's the homeowner's responsibility?

Isn't it great that Augusta has a commissioner that is so ignorant?

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