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May 15, 2008 Issue

Mother's Day blown away
Baxley estimates 242 homes damaged

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Mother's Day blown away

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

By 7:30 a.m., it was over. Then came the cleaning up, sorting through the rubble and trying to find what could be salvaged.

Many homes had trees on their roofs, damaging attics and garages. As of press time on Tuesday, no fatalities of the tornado-force winds that hit Louisville Sunday morning had been reported. No serious injuries had been reported. Many people had close calls and at least one family was left homeless. The storm ripped a family’s double-wide trailer down the middle and took away half the home’s roof.


Six people lived in that home.

Arthina Paschall; her mother; her 2-year-old child; two sisters, 4 and 9; and her 7-year-old brother have been given temporary shelter through the Red Cross.

She said the storm hit about 7 a.m. Sunday morning.

“My mama was up. I jumped up when I heard a whistling noise,” Paschall said. “It sounded like a train coming. We ran into the hallway. Then we got in the closet and started praying until it was over.”

Paschall said she and her family ran to their neighbor’s house but he was not at home.

“Neighbors across the street came and checked on us,” she said. Her home, a double-wide trailer situated on a wide dirt road, was split and half the roof peeled off by the storm. Dirt and water were splashed outside and inside the home.

Shafonda Mitchell owns a home one or two streets over on Brown Terrace Road. Her renter, Gwendolyn Wicker-Smith moved into that home with her two sons, a 7-year-old and a 12-year-old just five days before Sunday’s storm.

They moved from Florida to be closer to family, she said.

“I came to the country for a little peace. And I got a piece of tree,” Wicker-Smith said.

A large tree in the front yard was broken by the storm. The tree fell onto the roof and into the attic. It also pierced the roof over the porch. A limb forced open the front door.

“I heard the wind blowing, things crackling. I got the kids and went to the basement,” she said.

Across town, two power poles near the hospital had been broken by the storm. Most of the city was without power. While crews from Georgia Power worked to replace those poles, city workers, residents and family worked to clean up the debris the storm cast across road, fences, vehicles and homes.

One home with plenty of damage and a lot of luck belongs to Joyce Greenway. A tree fell on her garage. On the other side of her house, one tree was uprooted and fell away from her house while a tree in the back road was broken and fell on top of the house. Both trees missed her bedroom where she was at the time.

Trees had fallen all around her home, just missing her son’s motorcycle.

Her son, Thomas Greenway, lives in Louisville about 10 minutes from his mother’s house.

Besides it having been Mother’s Day, it was also Thomas Greenway’s birthday. He stood in the yard with his family, seemingly amazed at the destruction and also amazed by how little the house was damaged.

Joyce Greenway said her neighbor’s husband, Donnie Cobb, came over on the bulldozer to help clear the trees.

“It come so fast,” she said about the storm. “And, praise the Lord, it left fast, too.”

The old Armory on Hwy. 221, displaying its American flag upside down, a symbol of trouble, became the command center for law enforcement, firefighters, Red Cross workers and other volunteers. Paschall and her family arrived seeking help.

Around the city, broken trees lay in the streets, across driveways, on top of cars and houses and all over yards. They pulled down power lines, leaving much of the city without power.

Louisville Mayor Rita Culvern said restoring electricity was a priority.

“The main thing is electricity and if we can’t get electricity, then we’ll have problems with water, because we have to pump the water,” she said, adding she had already received a phone call from U.S. Rep. John Barrow (D-12).

“John Barrow called first thing this morning and will be out here,” she said.

Barrow and an aide arrived later and conducted a fly over with Jefferson County Commission Chairman William Rabun.

“I was able to see damage from the air that you could only see from the air, and damage on the ground that you could only see from the ground. What impressed me most was the extent to which neighbors were helping neighbors. With the kind of help that the state and federal government can give, we’ll get through this. In the meantime, our thoughts and prayers go out to the families who’ve suffered so much in this latest round of storm,” the congressman said.

A second storm was expected later Sunday afternoon. This storm was expected to be as bad or worse than the one that had already hit, according to Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency Director Lamar Baxley. Fortunately, that storm dissipated.

Reggie Morgan, a member of Louisville Fire Department, helped coordinate the damage assessment with Faye McGahee.

“We were in charge of coordinating the initial assessment,” Morgan said. “The teams will be going back sometime in the next day or so for a more in-depth evaluation. Right now we’re just trying to make sure no one’s trapped. We’ve had some families whose homes have been damaged to the point that they can’t live there right now. They have been placed in temporary shelter through the efforts of Red Cross.”

About 8:10 p.m. Sunday night, Gene Lyon was on his way home to Watkinsville.

He got a call that morning that Doris Gaston, his mother-in-law who lives on Clarks Mill Road, had lots of trees down. So he headed over to help. Also helping was Skip Davis, Randy Davis and Lyon’s brother-in-law, Bill McGahee.

“We did a week’s worth of work in an afternoon, especially Skip Davis,” Lyon said. “The house didn’t get hurt but the yard is a mess. It was a good job by a small community.”

Baxley estimates 242 homes damaged

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

At what he calls a rough estimate, Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency Director Lamar Baxley said on Monday 263 structures in the county had been damaged by tornado-force winds that struck Louisville early Sunday morning.

Of those structures, Mr. Baxley said 242 were homes.


Jefferson County

“That includes mobile homes, single family dwellings and multi-family dwellings,” he said. The remainder of the buildings were 13 businesses, six government facilities and two nonprofit organizations.

Damage was minor, major and total destruction, he said, adding only a few homes were totally destroyed.

“The best that I know of right now is that we have three,” Mr. Baxley said. “There could possibly be more. It will depend in some cases on the insurance company’s evaluation.”

Power has been restored, he said.

“We still have people out in the field working,” Baxley said, adding that he did not yet have a dollar figure on the cost of damages.

The areas hardest hit included homes off Hwy. 171 north and on several streets near the city’s hospital.

Schools in the city were closed on Monday but opened Tuesday.

Tim Williams, an engineering representative with Georgia Power, said all 1,500 of their customers in Louisville were without power after the storm.

“We had everybody on who could take service by around midnight Sunday night. We may have had a straggler out there that we didn’t know about. About a handful of customers had enough damage to their homes that it will take inside repairs before we can reconnect their power. Most of those were back on by late Monday afternoon.

“We had crews from Louisville, Waynesboro, Thomson, Augusta and Evans, a total of 40 personnel, mostly line crew and support people.

“Georgia Power would like to thank our customers for their understanding and their patience. We’d also like to thank the county and city employees, local law enforcement and firefighters for their help and support. And we really want to thank the people who came out to help their family, friends and neighbors clean up. That made it so much easier for us to get where we needed to be in a timely way,” Williams said.

A major priority for Georgia Power had been Jefferson Hospital on Peachtree Street where two power poles had been broken by the wind from the storm.

“We got (the power) on early in the evening between 6:30 and a quarter to seven,” he said. “We got two to three isolated cases and as stuff comes in we have people who can take care of that. We had the transmission lines out, which feed our substation. That kept us from being able to isolate a lot.”

Monday, Louisville Chief of Police Jimmy Miller said there were no problems with looting or anything such as that.

“I think the majority of (power) customers, such as myself, were back on as of 12 o’clock (Sunday) night,” he said “The major problems, as far as Georgia Power, was Forest Street and they were still in the middle of that street about 10:30 p.m. Middleground Road was out until about midnight. And I think that was primarily the last customers that they cut on last night. No injuries were reported to us.”

He said people started coming in on Monday requesting police reports for damages from the storm

“People were actually getting in there and getting together and getting things cleaned up. That’s good to see the community coming together,” he said.

There were 500 JEMC customers without service in Jefferson County as of Monday morning, said Steve Chalker director of public relations with Jefferson Energy Cooperative, adding about 50 were still without power as late as 5:45 p.m. Tuesday.

“Immediately after the storm, we were at just under 4,000 customers without power, mainly in Johnson, Emanuel and south Jefferson counties,” Chalker said. “That’s just in our service territory, which comprises parts of 11 counties. When you have a tornado, there’s so much that you have to clean up. Primarily there’s just trees everywhere and you have to get those up before you can replace a pole and get the lines back up.

“We’d like to thank our customers for their patience and we want to commend the employees of Jefferson Energy as well as the crews that came to our aid,” Chalker said.

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