Middle Georgia counties were beginning to get back to normal Tuesday from Tropical Storm Irma’s destruction, but the recovery is continuing.
Emergency management leaders said it’s too early to estimate the cost of the damages, but most of it is from fallen trees and damage to power lines, with some homes, buildings and vehicles damaged.
Pecan trees also suffered significant damage, with many broken limbs and some trees fallen over, said Jeff Cook, county agent for Peach and Taylor counties.
Motorists are urged to continue to use caution because there may still be some road hazards from the storm. There is also a continuing threat of trees falling as a result of the wet ground, said Jimmy Williams, director the Houston County Emergency Management Agency.
Flint Energies and Georgia Power have made good progress on repairing damaged lines, and overall Williams said he was pleased with the state of the county as of late Tuesday afternoon.
“We are in excellent shape compared to a lot of other areas in the state and communities,” he said. “We are getting back to almost 100 percent normal.”
Emergency personnel Monday responded to 179 calls of trees down, 109 calls of power lines down, 24 calls of damage of homes and buildings and six calls of vehicles damaged, he said. He was not aware of any serious injuries.
EMA Director Troy Reynolds said one of the biggest issues in the county Tuesday was the heavy traffic on U.S. 441 as Floridians were trying to return home. Gas stations and restaurants were very busy. He urged people to try to avoid the highway if they can.
Reynolds also said that some trees tangled in power lines remain down on roads. Public works crews cannot remove those until the power company clears the lines. He urged people to use caution in both driving and walking. He said people should assume any down power lines are hot.
Several homes were damaged by falling trees but no one was injured, he said. He said about 10,000 customers remained without power, which is down from about 20,000 at one point.
Laurens County, although farther away from the storm’s center, was among the hardest hit. Emergency Management Agency Director Don Bryant said because the county was on the outer band of the storm, it had higher winds than those closer to the center.
Hundreds of trees were down across the county, he said. He estimated 40 to 50 trees fell across Interstate 16, and dozens of trees fell on houses and vehicles. A tree fell on a vehicle with multiple people inside who were taken to a hospital, but Bryant said he was not aware of their condition. A tree fell on a house, causing minor injuries to an occupant, and those were the only injuries he knew about.
Trees were still down on some dirt roads, but Bryant said he did not believe anyone was blocked from getting to and from their home. He urged people to continue to use caution as they are driving.
“We are just asking everyone to be patient,” he said. “We are getting roads cleared as fast as we can.”
Bryant said he believed there was damage to crops, especially cotton.
Monroe County EMA Director Matthew Perry said about a dozen trees hit houses. One person staying at a campground was hit in the head by a tree and suffered non-life threatening injuries.
Perry said he was happy with the coordination of the emergency response effort to the storm.
“The fire department, EMS, public works and volunteers stepped up,” he said. “In the nine years I’ve been EMA director that was the smoothest disaster we’ve ever run.”
Severe storms the county has dealt with in the past have tended to be more intense in a smaller area, but Irma’s damage was evenly spread across the county, he said.
Perry said Interstate 75 South on Tuesday was “a parking lot” in Monroe as evacuees attempted to return home.
Most of the power outages that remained in Peach County on Tuesday afternoon were in the northern part of the county served by Georgia Power, said Jeff Doles, the county’s emergency management director. He said Flint Energies had made good progress in restoring power in the area it serves in Peach.
“We are in pretty good shape right now,” he said.
A tree fell on a house and Kay Community Service Center in Fort Valley had its roof blown off, Doles said. He said he believed the largest monetary loss could be from the damaged pecan trees.