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Tropical Storm Michael’s strong gusts linger as crews begin to assess Georgia damage

EMA director on Michael: hunker down

Macon-Bibb County Emergency Management Authority director Spencer Hawkins tells residents to hunker down and wait out the winds of Hurricane Michael.
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Macon-Bibb County Emergency Management Authority director Spencer Hawkins tells residents to hunker down and wait out the winds of Hurricane Michael.

Macon-Bibb County crews and emergency management officials are surveying damage early Thursday as Tropical Storm Michael toppled trees and knocked down power lines in some parts of the county.

A wind gust of 53 mph was recorded just before midnight at Middle Georgia Regional Airport as the sustained winds dropped below 74 mph, which is minimal Category 1 hurricane status.

At about 12:15 a.m., a gust of 61 mph was recorded in Dublin, according to the National Weather Service.

Overnight several Macon roads were closed because of down trees, including Victoria Circle, which is off Riverside near Wimbish Road, Nottingham Drive, which is near Jackson Springs Park in Shirley Hills, as well as Baker Road at Vanceville Road, Floore said.

Nottingham Drive was cleared after 4:30 a.m. but Twin Pine Drive remained blocked.

“We want people to report downed trees” by calling the Macon-Bibb County Emergency Management Agency ‘s Operation Center at 478-832-6300, assistant to the county manager for public affairs Chris Floore told The Telegraph.

Crews began assessing damage at about 3 a.m.

In Houston County, no major roads were blocked as of just before 5 a.m.

“It really hasn’t been that bad. Not what we were anticipating, anyway,” Houston County 911 supervisor Sheila Hayes said.

The National Weather Service is compiling a preliminary damage report including a tree down on a house in the 1700 block of Kings Chapel Road in Houston County and another tree down on a home in the 300 block of Faye Circle near Perry. Near Warner Robins, a tree is reportedly down on apartments in the 100 block of Springhill Drive. Those reports came in early Thursday just after midnight.

Jones County 911 reported a lot of trees and power lines down, but no major roads closed as of about 5 a.m.

Earlier Wednesday evening, three tornadoes had touched down in Middle Georgia. Twisters occurred near Roberta, Perry and Fort Valley, the National Weather Service in Peachtree City confirmed.

Much of Georgia remained under a tornado watch until 2 a.m. Thursday.

Macon residents began losing electrical power as the hurricane got close.

As of 6:30 a.m. Thursday, Flint Energies reported more than 18,000 outages including nearly 13,000 in Houston County, nearly 2,000 in Macon County, more than 1,100 in Peach County.

As of Georgia Power’s latest outage update at 6 a.m., 200,000 Georgians were without electricity with more than 2,700 individual cases of damage such as broken poles that need to be replaced. The utility company has about 3,900 crew members ready to begin repairs. Spotty outages have been reported across Bibb County.

As of 5:30 a.m., Tri-County EMC repair crews were waiting for winds to die down before they could begin to work.

Tri-County meter outage updates show 1375 without electricity in Jones County, 1030 in Baldwin County, 945 in Putnam County, 61 in Twiggs County, 21 in Wilkinson County, 11 in Bibb County and 2 in Jasper County.

Macon-Bibb County Emergency Management Agency Director Spencer Hawkins warned residents to stay off the roads until crews can maker sure it is safe.

“Stay inside. Stay close to home and stay safe,” Hawkins said.

Robins Air Force Base public affairs announced the 116/461 Air Control Wing, E-8C JSTARS aircraft had been evacuated inland out of the storm path. The base announced early closure Wednesday afternoon and is set to reopen Thursday at noon.

Members of the Georgia State Defense Force are manning shelters in the Macon area and are on hand to assist with disaster recovery.

“We bring an interesting spread of expertise,” defense force public affairs officer Kerry Hatcher said. “We have doctors, lawyers, communications people, I.T., plumbers, electricians, a whole cross-section.”

Hatcher and others in their units wear green camouflage uniforms with “Georgia” written across the front of their shirt.

Widespread rainfall totals of up to 8 inches are expected in southwest Georgia with the potential for locally higher amounts.

Middle Georgia could see up to 6 inches of rain.

Flash flooding is expected where the heaviest rain falls. Water could puddle up on roads, especially where new highway construction has altered storm water drains near Interstate 16 at Spring Street, which has flooded in recent heavy rain.

Depending on the extent of the damage and outages, some areas could be without electricity for days.

Pay attention to local alerts, have a battery-powered weather radio handy and sign up for MBCAlerts from Macon-Bibb County.

Telegraph writers Wayne Crenshaw and Linda S. Morris contributed to this report.

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