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Couple freed from car after tree, power lines crash down
Accident closed Green Street all evening, knocked out power, Internet service
A tree fell onto Green Street this evening, taking down power lines with it and landing on a vehicle. - photo by EMMA WITMAN

A strong storm blew through the Hall County area Friday afternoon, sending trees and power lines into roadways all across the county.

On Green Street, traffic was diverted in the midst of rush hour after a large oak on the property of 615 Green St. was struck by lightning and sent crashing into the road, taking out several power lines along the way.

Gainesville Police Department spokesmen said no one was injured in the incident but the road would likely be closed until early morning. It was reopened by Saturday afternoon.

A small pickup truck was covered by power lines and a passenger vehicle driven by Haley Johnson was trapped under both the tree and live wires.

It took nearly 30 minutes to make the area safe before firefighters could free Johnson and her fiance William Hampton from the car.

“We were driving along and saw the lightning hit the tree and just stopped,” Johnson said. Hampton added that they were extremely lucky the car stopped where it did. Any farther he said, and they would have been crushed under the trunk of the tree, and any more behind, they would have been struck directly by a large tansformer on the power line.

Both were uninjured and just glad to be free. Hampton was taking pictures of the scene with his cell phone as were several bystanders that had gathered.

Johnson said she and her fiance are planning to get married in September, but now will need a new car.

“If anyone wants to get us something, we could use a car,” she said with a laugh.

Doug Straughan saw the power lines come down as he was working in his office on Green Street.

“I saw this pole hit the street, and sparks were flying everywhere,” he said. It sparked three times before it finally calmed down ... I called 911 and told them there were people in the car.”

Straughan said the downed lines caught the truck on fire, and the driver was able to jump out.

Scott Cagle, Hall County Fire Marshal and Deputy Emergency Management Agency Director, issued a news release this morning detailing the following areas affected by the storm:

  • Blueberry Hills Drive: Trees down with street closed
  • Athens Street at Ridge Road: Tree down
  • Stallworth Street: Tree down blocking the road, minor damage to a home
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard: Transformer fire
  • East Ridge Road: Power line down

According to Georgia Power, 4,800 customers in the Gainesville area were without power Friday evening, mostly due to trees and limbs on power lines. Power to all customers had been restored as of Saturday afternoon. 

The area also was without cable and Internet service due to the downed lines, but it was restored by Saturday.

The storm dumped more than a half-inch of rain on the city in a brief period, according to measurements taken at the National Weather Service recording station at Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport.

Staff members Emma Witman, Meredith Pruitt and Michelle Boaen Jameson contributed to this story.

Regional events