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Severe weather knocks out power to nearly 2,000 in Hall

POSTED: April 11, 2009 9:13 a.m.
TOM REED/The Times

Water from an overflowing Flat Creek covers part of a trailer park off McConnell Drive near Atlanta Highway on Friday evening.

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A line of severe storms moved through Northeast Georgia on Friday, leaving more than 2,000 Hall County residents without power.

At least three tornado warnings were issued for Hall County, starting at about 6:15 p.m. During the worst of the storms, pea-sized hail fell in downtown Gainesville.

Surrounding counties Dawson, Banks, Jackson, White, Forsyth and Gwinnett also were under a tornado warning during the evening Friday.

The thunderstorms and hail Friday were part of a system that brought severe tornadoes through Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky.

Bonnie Jones, director of public relations with Jackson EMC, said almost 2,000 of its Hall County customers were without power as of 8:30 p.m.

Jones said the East Hall substation went down at about 7 p.m. because of a fallen tree, leaving about 500 customers without power. About 10 minutes later, the Spout Springs substation in South Hall went down, leaving about 1,500 in the dark. "We're not quite sure what's going on with that," Jones said.

She said she was not sure when power would resume to those areas.

As of 9 a.m. Friday Gainesville received 1.87 inches of rain at Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport, according to the National Weather Service. Heavy rainfall associated with the storm cells fell across the Lake Lanier basin, and the lake level may rise over the next few days. The lake currently is less than 10 feet below full pool.

The most severe weather warnings were in Northwest Georgia - Floyd, Chattooga, Gilmer, Pickens and Gordon counties, where the National Weather Service heard reports of large hail and fallen trees.

Despite all of the warnings, there were no reports of damage and no tornados touched down.

The heavy rain caused Flat Creek to flood near Atlanta Highway and McConnell Drive. A mobile home park near the creek was flooded, but it appeared that water didn't get into any of the homes.

Only a handful of power outages were reported by Georgia Power in Northeast Georiga, although 12,000 statewide were in the dark. She said the company hoped to restore power to most of the Atlanta-area customers by 10:30 p.m.

"The whole county, we only have 152 customers out (of power) total in the Hall County area," said Lynn Wallace, a spokeswoman for Georgia Power. Of those, 104 were in Dahlonega.

Wallace said the Hall County area served by Georgia Power was in "pretty good shape," and most of the power outages were in Northwest Georgia.

Col. Jeff Strickland of the Hall County Sheriff's office said he received "a number of alarm calls," due to power outages or lightning, but no major incidents.

In Forsyth County, a rodeo at the Cumming Fairgrounds was postponed until 3 p.m. Sunday

Elsewhere across Georgia, flights were delayed for up to 90 minutes at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport as dark gray clouds swirled in from the west.

Several possible tornadoes were reported in northwest Georgia's Chattooga County, said Buzz Weiss of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency. At least two buildings were reportedly damaged and about 30 downed trees were spotted in downtown Summerville.

Ken Davis, another GEMA spokesman, said there was a report of three possible tornadoes striking in Franklin County in northeast Georgia. He said reports from the county indicated the storms had destroyed several poultry houses and that numerous county roads and three state routes were blocked by debris.

He said Pickens County reported substantial power outages, with power lines and trees down. Gwinnett County was reporting similar damage, Davis said. He said no injuries were reported.

Heavy storms also pelted several counties south of Atlanta.

In Floyd County, south of Chattooga, there were at least 12 large trees that fell across roadways, which were covered with debris, said Tim Herrington, deputy director of emergency management in the county.

"Four of them have been cleaned up, and we're waiting for the power crews to clear the others so the roads can be reopened," Herrington said.

Elsewhere, there were showers and thunderstorms, some with large hail and damaging winds, especially in north Georgia.

The forecast called for decreasing cloudiness on Saturday, with a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms in extreme south Georgia.

Times staff writer Amber Allen, the Forsyth County News and the Associated Press contributed to this report.




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