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Authorities documenting Irma damage in Hall
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A shattered power line sits in a yard on Monday on Mountain Crest Drive near McConnell Drive in the city of Gainesville. The last flickers of outages have been cleared in the city. - photo by Nick Bowman

With most of the immediate effects of Tropical Storm Irma cleared away, local officials, utility companies and property owners are digging into the numbers and details of the storm.

Tuesday marked the last power outages in the area finally being cleared after the storm.

Georgia Power restored its final outages in the city of Gainesville and Hall County Tuesday morning, according to its outage map. Jackson Electric Membership Corp. restored power to the last of its customers on Saturday, said spokeswoman April Sorrow.

More than 65 percent of the county was without power at the peak of the damage, according to Hall County Emergency Management Agency Director David Kimbrell. More than 1,000 linemen were involved in the work to restore the power in Hall and surrounding counties, including workers from as far as Minnesota and Canada.

By the end of last week, the county had received 842 calls about trees down in roadways, 292 calls about downed power lines and 37 calls about transformer fires.

At the peak of local storm damage, approximately 80 percent of roads in the county were blocked in some fashion by trees or power lines, according to Kimbrell.

Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for all 159 Georgia counties on Sept. 10 after beginning with just 30 counties on Sept. 7. On Sept. 12, Hall County Board of Commissioners Chairman Richard Higgins declared a local emergency.

A local state of emergency enabled county employees the “authority to do any act necessary for the preservation of life, limb and preservation of property,” according to county code.

Even with the power outages, downed power lines and a couple of house fires related to Tropical Storm Irma, there was no loss of human life and almost no injuries in Hall County during the storm.

Hurricane Irma fast facts

  • Length of the storm: 16 days
  • Top overall wind speed: 225 mph gust, 185 mph sustained
  • Top local wind speed: 51 mph in Hall, 67 mph in Atlanta
  • Local rainfall: 0.9 inches
  • State of emergencies: Declared statewide Sept. 10, locally on Sept. 12
  • Emergency calls in Hall during the storm: 3,198
  • Number of calls about trees and power lines down: 1,134
  • Portion of Hall County without power at peak: 65 percent
  • Power was restored to all those affected: Tuesday morning

Source: Hall County Emergency Management Agency

In Gainesville, city fire and police departments reported that they knew of no injuries caused by the storm or the cleanup, according to Gainesville Police Department spokesman Kevin Holbrook and Gainesville Fire Department spokesman Keith Smith. Hall County Fire Services spokesman Zachary Brackett said information about injuries in Hall County was still being collected as of Tuesday.

Now, officials with Hall County and the city of Gainesville are assessing property damage to see whether the area needs direct aid from state and federal emergency management agencies.

Kimbrell said county crews have been doing “windshield surveys,” in which they drive all of the 4,113 roads in the county to make note of damage to report to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“There’s five categories: whether it’s affected, minor, major, destroyed or it’s inaccessible for us to look at,” Kimbrell told The Times on Tuesday. “You drive out and look and you compile all that, and we send that to FEMA. There’s no clear guidance, but if it meets whatever criteria they use, it turns on what they call individual assistance. That’s when people can apply for aid to help them repair their homes.”

That work was done by Monday, Kimbrell said. Individual assistance is already available in a small number of counties on Georgia’s coast.

It could be some time before the county hears back about assistance in Hall.

“There are several steps to go, and we’ve just completed the first step,” Kimbrell said.

FEMA assistance is primarily for damage to uninsured property, Kimbrell said. Residents can get updates on local disaster information by texting “hallcounty” to 888777.

A false rumor has been circulating online that being without power for a certain number of days makes a homeowner eligible for some kind of financial relief, he said.

Meanwhile, another Category 5 hurricane, this one named Maria, is churning in the Caribbean. Hurricane Maria is on track to hit Puerto Rico on Wednesday, but the current forecast from the National Weather Service calls for the storm to turn northward and glance the east coast of Haiti before moving into the Atlantic Ocean.

The National Hurricane Center is keeping a close eye on Maria, and the National Weather Service is posting regular updates on the storm on Twitter.

“So far, unless it makes a major change, it looks like we shouldn’t have anything from Maria,” Kimbrell said.

The path of the storm changes often, and meteorologists are constantly updating projections.

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