Tropical storm slams Dahlonega
Chief David Wimpy called it “the perfect storm.”
As the Lumpkin County Emergency Services Director stood in front of county officials last Tuesday he warned of the approaching danger of Hurricane Irma which was then churning the waters in the Atlantic.
“About 80 percent of projected models having it coming straight to Atlanta,” he said. “… So I just want to have everybody keep that in mind because if it hits like it’s supposed to hit, it won’t be good.”
A week later that prediction came to pass as the tropical storm remnants of Irma swept through the county while toppling trees, flooding creek beds and leaving much of Lumpkin in the dark.
On Tuesday morning, at press-time, numerous roadways remained blocked and nearly 12,000 residents were without power.
Sheriff Stacy Jarrard reported that the 911 call center had received 626 calls throughout the night.
“And it’s still continuing,” he said.
The majority of those calls were related to fallen tree damage, as a University of North Georgia weather station reported gusts above 60 miles per hour.
“I’m telling you, you had to monitor the trees and where they were above you because they were falling to the ground all around you,” said Jarrard.
On numerous occasions throughout the night emergency workers found themselves blocked by fallen trees.
“They’d be responding to one tree call and they’d get pinned in because another tree would fall behind them,” said Jarrard. “And they’d have to get cut out by.”
One close call left a deputy and his patrol car trapped beneath fallen limbs and wires on Rockhouse Road. A team effort with utility workers and emergency responders helped him escape the vehicle unscathed.
“He was able to come away with no injuries,” said Jarrard.
In the city limits North Grove Street was shut down as city engineer Mark Buchanan attempted to direct drivers around fallen wires. Some listened, while others moved road cones to the side and rolled through anyway. Traffic remained light as schools were closed, classes at UNG were cancelled and most businesses remained without power.
Amidst the fallen debris, downtown residents Ty Janyaem and Allisa Hendley emerged from their home to survey the damage while walking their dog Harper.
They were surprised by what they saw.
“We heard the transformer blow up around 8 and we lost power,” said Hendley. “Then I honestly slept through the night. I didn’t know it was going to be like this at all.”
Around the corner on Hawkins Street, local winery owner Claire Livingston was well aware of the extent of the nighttime destruction as her vehicle and her home were both crushed by the same fallen tree.
“We were home when it happened,” she said from her crumbling front porch.
She was shaken but uninjured.
Meanwhile, local meteorologist Jason Hutcheson kept Facebook users up to date throughout the night with regular posts at his popular Dahlonega Weather site.
Though he was expecting a big event, he said he was still taken aback by the total amount of damage.
“Truthfully it was probably worse that what I expected,” he said. “It got a little gustier than I thought it would. And the wind was crazy.”
For further storm updates, check into thedahloneganugget.com.