Irma's aftermath: Power still out for thousands, trees down, roads strewn, damage extensive
Many schools, businesses remain closed as Hall continues cleanup
Crews use heavy equipment Tuesday morning to clear trees across Athens Street in Lula. - photo by Scott Rogers

Almost 20,000 Hall County customers remained without power Wednesday evening as crews continued working to clear trees and fix power lines in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irma.

The storm battered North Georgia for much of Monday evening, toppling trees on power lines, roadways and in some cases, homes and vehicles.

Jackson EMC reported 8,242 customers out in Hall and Georgia Power reported 11,517 as of 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

More than 43,000 had been without power in Hall late Monday night. Some 1.3 million Georgians lost power at some point during the storm.

"When we restore a main circuit, the tap lines on that feeder then report individual outages, causing the overall number to grow," Jackson EMC spokeswoman April Sorrow said Wednesday. 

Georgia Power had restored power to more than 405,000 customers overall, according to a news release Tuesday evening.

Gainesville and Hall County schools remained closed Wednesday. Read updated closings

Hall County’s community centers — Mulberry Creek Community Center, East Hall Community Center and North Hall Community Center — were closed Wedneseday, but other county government facilities reopened.

Laurel Park, River Forks Park and the Hall County Library System branches in North Hall and Murrayville are still closed.

Hall students will be completing work at home if possible. About 20 Hall schools were without power Tuesday morning, according to Superintendent Will Schofield.

Interstates and most state routes were open Tuesday morning, but there were still many trees blocking secondary roads even Tuesday evening.

Matt Tarver, senior civil engineer with Gainesville, said the city’s road clearing efforts were being delayed by waiting to hear from very busy power companies.

“For the safety of everyone involved, we’re not going to touch (power lines) until we get confirmation … that the lines are dead,” he said.

Hall County Public Works will remain on duty through the night, and the Hall County Sheriff’s Office deputies are returning to staffing normal numbers for the Tuesday night shift.

Blocked roads are “really widespread,” Tarver said Tuesday. “A lot of the roads that are impassable are farther back in the subdivisions.”

The Sheriff’s Office is advising drivers to avoid: Old Cornelia Highway between White Sulphur and Latty Roads; Pierce Road; East Hall Road; Belmont Highway; Tribble Gap Road; Shirley Road; Southers Road; Chestatee Road; Cash Road; and JM Turk Road.

A Forsyth County woman died Monday when a tree fell on her vehicle. Nancy Eason, 57, wife of former Cumming Police Chief Mike Eason, died after being trapped in the vehicle her husband was driving shortly after 6 p.m., according to Deputy Doug Rainwater, a spokesman for the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office.

At least three people were confirmed killed in the state as a result of the storm.

Though numerous trees fell on homes and cars in Hall, no injuries had been reported. East Hall and Chicopee Village were particularly hard hit. The iconic Clermont Hotel, now the Clermont Venue also was damaged.

Hall County officials are assessing damage and asking residents to report non-emergencies by calling 770-718-3300. Those with structural damage are asked to report it to the GEMA website.

Nick Baggett, natural resource manager for the Army Corps of Engineers at Lake Lanier, didn’t know whether any parks were closed because of storm damage.

He did say workers were removing fallen trees from roadways at camp sites and other areas. In some parks, “access is very limited,” Baggett said.

“We probably won’t have a good, working list (of affected parks) until probably (Wednesday),” Baggett said.

One tree fell on a camper “and pretty much cut it into two,” he said. “No one was injured, though.”

Lisa Hunter, corps spokeswoman for the Mobile District, said the Lower Pool West Park is closed.

“The Lake Lanier staff is working to return the park to safe conditions, but some of that will depend on when Georgia Power will restore power to the area,” she said.

Staff writer Jeff Gill contributed to this report.

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