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Frozen solid: McDuffie thaws out from ice storm

The comparisons began almost immediately.


From left, Doris Banks, Martha and James Johnson unload debris from the back of a pickup truck. The Johns Road residents were cleaning up from the ice storm.

Jan. 26, 2004 was on everyone's mind this past Saturday. One year and three days had passed since the ice storm that devastated the area, leaving many residents without power for much of the week.

Saturday's sleet and freezing rain did its own damage, downing tree limbs and power lines, but most were thankful that the damage was minimal compared to last year.

McDuffie County Emergency Management Director Bruce Tanner said shelters and personnel were on call, but unlike last year, they weren't necessary. He also said power had been restored to most areas in the county by Sunday evening.

"It wasn't nearly as bad as last year," Chief Tanner said. "Last year's power outages were wide spread. These were pretty much scattered."

Georgia Power Area Distribution Manager Ron Shipman said at its worst about 500 customers were without electricity at one time in McDuffie County. About 20 to 25 customers were still without power by Monday afternoon, which Mr. Shipman said was an improvement over last year's storm recovery effort.


McDuffie County maintenance worker Joe Gunby cuts a limb beside the McDuffie County Courthouse. Part of a large oak snapped during the weekend ice storm.
Photo by Kristopher Wells
"Last year at this time, we were still going," he said.

Power crews had done their best to prepare for the wintry mix that forecasters said was coming. Mr. Shipman said the storm of 2004 gave Georgia Power a head start on problems this time around.

"Obviously, one of the preparations is experience," he said. "We had gone through it before, so we kind of knew what to anticipate."

Jefferson Energy Spokesperson Steve Chalker said a total of 7,500 of the cooperative's members were without electricity in and around McDuffie County. Power had been restored to most of those by late Sunday as well.

"We've called in crews from other EMCs and other areas to help as we did last year, and we are currently working to get it all restored," Mr. Chalker said, noting that half of Jefferson Energy's 32,000 members were without power last year.

Crews from several companies including Progress Energy and Irby Contractors also worked in McDuffie County.


Gene Thomas with Georgia Power tries to take a pine tree limb off a power line in Belle Meade.

Power crews weren't the only ones braving the wintry weather this past weekend. McDuffie County and City of Thomson road crews also worked overtime to keep the streets clear of fallen limbs and power lines. Main Street in Thomson was closed for three hours, according to Chief Tanner.

"I don't think it was quite as bad as last year," said McDuffie County Road Department Director Chris Pelly. "We didn't have as many large trees fall," he said, adding that most of the weaker branches were thinned out by last year's storm.

Mr. Pelly said two crews of three workers were out constantly, deicing bridges and overpasses and removing trees and limbs from the roadway. He said the Belle Meade area was hit the hardest by the downed limbs.

Another decline from last year's storm was the number of traffic accidents the icy roadways caused. Just during the first morning of last year's storm, there were a half dozen accidents in the area. According to Georgia State Patrol Operator Stuart Taylor, officers only responded to three accidents this past Saturday and three on Sunday.


Ice dangles from a pool net in Dearing.


Broken branches cover the ground at the old Dearing Elementary School.

Web posted on Thursday, February 3, 2005


Temperature:53° F
Wind:from the W at 5 MPH
Visibility:10 miles
Dew Point:53° F
Updated: 04-Nov-2010 10:01

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