Storm cleanup remains work in progress

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AIKEN --- Three weeks later, the cleanup and repairs continue.

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Capt. Bryan Paige and classmates from the Signal Captains Career Course at Fort Gordon clear debris from last month's severe storms near Petticoat Junction.  Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Capt. Bryan Paige and classmates from the Signal Captains Career Course at Fort Gordon clear debris from last month's severe storms near Petticoat Junction.

On April 10 a massive storm spawning four tornadoes swept through Columbia, Burke, Richmond and Aiken counties, leaving millions of dollars in damage. Although some repairs have started, the destruction is still visible.

"You still see a lot of blue tarp roofs around, but that is not unusual," said Richmond County EMA and Fire Chief Howard Willis.

Chief Willis said he estimates about $1.4 million in storm damage in Augusta, where most downed trees have been moved out, but repairs continue in areas around Bungalow and Barton Chapel roads.

"There's been quite a few repairs started, and the cleanup process as far as the people getting stuff out to the road and everything, we still have some small pockets where people are doing little things."

In South Carolina, the Petticoat Junction cleanup is in full force.

"The number of trees and stuff that came down, it's just made really a mess of things, and it's really been a lot to clean up still since the tornadoes," said Silver Bluff Volunteer Fire Department Chief Kerry Green, whose main fire station was destroyed by a tornado.

Since the storm, volunteers have frequently returned to clean up. On Friday, about 40 volunteers from Fort Gordon were in Petticoat Junction, using chain saws to clear away debris.

Resident Andrew Gaines says he's among those still waiting for repairs. He had a floral shop that was leveled, and his house next door sustained damage to the roof.

"It's taking awhile," he said, adding he recently paid $200 to have debris hauled off.

He said his insurance company cut him a check for $16,000, but he said the adjuster left out a few things. Mr. Gaines is not cashing the check until the site can be reevaluated. He estimates his losses at about $23,000.

Sarah Brown, another Petticoat Junction resident, is waiting on an insurance check. She said the company agreed to replace her entire roof after originally offering to repair half.

"I told them I don't send my checks up there in half. I send it up whole. I want a whole roof," she said, adding that having different shingles on half the house would look bad.

Chief Green said his department has settled with the insurance company on two of its three damaged fire trucks for replacements; the third truck is being repaired. His department expects to have a temporary shelter in the next two weeks.

Initially, officials estimated the cost of a new station could be a half million dollars.

Aiken County officials have said the Petticoat and Beech Island areas sustained about $3.25 million in damage.

The storm also hit Burke County, where EMA officials now say a good bit of the debris cleanup has been completed, adding that mostly repairs are occurring. Burke County EMA Chief Rusty Sanders said the county didn't compile a damage total, but he said $41,000 was spent in government response and cleanup.

Reach Preston Sparks at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com

COUNTING THE COSTS

The latest storm damage costs:

Aiken County -- $3.25 million

Richmond County -- $1.4 million

Columbia County -- $335,000

Burke County -- $41,000-a

South Carolina -- $20 million-b

Georgia -- $100 million-c

a- Government officials didn't compile a damage total, but they estimate there was $41,000 in government response and cleanup costs

b- nearly $20 million in insurance claims, but that figure is expected to rise

c- estimate of total cost

Sources: County governments and emergency management officials, Georgia Insurance Commissioner's office, South Carolina Insurance News Service


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