Workers continue cleanup after Augusta storm

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Sitec workers clean up tree trunks, limbs and debris at Gary and Gardner streets in Augusta. The city called in the crew from Beech Island around 8:30 a.m. Saturday.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Sitec workers clean up tree trunks, limbs and debris at Gary and Gardner streets in Augusta. The city called in the crew from Beech Island around 8:30 a.m. Saturday.

Lenson Neal has lived at the end of Gary Street in Augusta for 32 years.

In that time, he has seen a big storm come through and take out a tree or two every other year, he said. But Friday was different.

“I’ve never seen that much wind,” he said.

Three giant oak trees and part of a pine were taken out on his block by the storm that moved in around noon Friday, bringing rain and hail with it.

The National Weather Service confirmed that the storm included a series of microbursts, with Daniel Field registering wind gusts up to 70 mph.

“The microbursts were embedded in the storm,” meteorologist Leonard Vaughan said. “The winds were so strong they took down trees all over the area.”

Most of the major roads were cleared Friday night, said city traffic engineer Steve Cassell. The big clean-up effort should start Monday.

There were a few crews out Satur­day, including on Gary Street in front of Neal’s property, where trees were still blocking the street.

The crew that was sawing and removing the trees was from Sitec LLC out of Beech Island, which had been called in from the city around 8:30 a.m. to take over for city workers who had been going all night.

“We have the equipment to help,” said Sitec employee Richard McClain Jr.

Neal was without power for about 22 hours, which he thought was reasonable considering the power lines had come down completely.

“That was a scary situation,” Cassell said. “There were four power poles down.”

About 15,000 Georgia Power customers were without power directly after the storm, according to spokesman Brian Green.

“Wind causes problems quicker than anything,” he said.

Georgia Power called in more than 300 workers from all over the state, including Atlanta and Macon. They worked through the night and were able to get all but 14 restored by 5 p.m. Saturday.

Aiken County had 2,978 outages among SCE&G customers and 1,400 Jefferson Elec­tric customers were without power directly after the storm moved through those areas. Everyone had restored power by Saturday afternoon, even though the storm included an EF 2 tornado that touched down in Aiken County, destroying two homes and heavily damaging a third.

Richmond County sheriff’s deputy Michelle Thomas said that though Friday was hectic, it went very smoothly. Back on duty for her Saturday shift, she said roads were clear and that police were back to focusing on their normal duties.

No one has been hurt in the past 32 years of storms that Neal has watched come through his neighborhood. The same cannot be said about the vegetation.

“We’re about to run out of trees on Gary Street,” he said.

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rmwhitley
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rmwhitley 02/25/12 - 08:45 pm
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It's George Bush's fault.
Unpublished

It's George Bush's fault. Just ask obama.

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