The battering ram that was Hurricane Irma chugged into Georgia on Monday, lashing trees, roofs and power lines that lie hundreds of miles from the sea with tropical-storm conditions rarely seen here.
Gusts forecast to top 60 mph through the afternoon rendered cities across the region ghost towns as the week began with most people staying home from work and off the roads.
Irma, downgraded to a tropical storm as it churned into the state, was still every bit a tree-bending wind show, packing constant 20-to-30-mph winds throughout the day that knocked down utility lines and left thousands without power.
“It’s widespread and it’s not like the typical storms that pop up here,” said Matthew Perry, EMA director in Monroe County. “This is a persistent event.”
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Irma’s winds were expected to howl into the night Monday, at times blowing more than 40 mph. Coupled with half a foot of rain in spots, the one-two punch of wind and downpours will no doubt snap trees and limbs, blocking roads, damaging houses and leaving thousands of Georgians without power into Tuesday. The worst of Irma’s remnants were expected to veer into Alabama, Mississippi and western Tennessee by then.
Georgia Power reported that about 15,000 of its customers in and around Macon had no electricity as of 11 a.m. Monday. More than 100,000 of the company’s customers in a swath from Savannah to Albany had lost power by midday.
Electric service could be out indefinitely for many across the South as crews prepared to repair fallen lines in the storm’s wake.
In Forsyth late Monday morning, Perry, the EMA chief, said his agency’s rain gauge had measured about a half an inch.
“But most of the rain is not going in the gauge,” Perry said. “It’s blowing across the top.”